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OSCAM x Dialogue

In her first European solo exhibition, South African photographer Dahlia Maubane (1988) highlights the life and work of the hairdressers in her country of origin.

In her work, Maubane shows how visibility on the street is crucial for hairdressers. They do not work in the luxuriously furnished hair salons as we in the West know them, but often in the open space or in the somewhat dilapidated corners of the city. Instead of chic signs or neon signs, they praise their expertise on signs with photos that are often faded. It’s an art in itself to attract potential customers along the public road: “Woza Sisi!, Woza zobona!, Woza Nice!”. (In isiZulu: Come Sister!, Come and look!, Become Miss Charming!)

By photographing the extraordinary hair culture and the work of hairdressers in cities such as Johannesburg, Mahikeng and Maputo for years, Maubane responds to a historical phenomenon; in South Africa, street trade has an interesting and charged history. For various reasons, this phenomenon was an eyesore for the Apartheid regime. Street vendors were systematically arrested and their merchandise seized or destroyed. Only in the latter days of Apartheid (in the mid-1980s) did the street trade become an everyday phenomenon again.

In the initial phase of her project, Maubane mainly portrayed the women and their appearance. Her more recent works from the Woza Sisi project focus primarily on the urban environment in which the hairdressers try to make ends meet.

The exhibition came about thanks to Market Photo Workshop (Johannesburg), the Prince Claus Fund and the Amsterdam Fund for the Arts.