Hair academy empowers women

A hairdressing student at Images 1 Hair
Academy designed and modelled her outfit
at their academic-year-end hairpiece show.

Another Images 1 Hair Academy student
displaying her talent at the ceremony.

(Images: Images 1 Hair Academy)

• Marietta Millard
Images 1 Hair Academy principal
+27 41 365 1491

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Bongani Nkosi

Noluvuyo Peter says she’s set to make her mark as a hairdresser and create a better life for herself in the Eastern Cape, thanks to a novel training programme offered at the Images 1 Hair Academy in Port Elizabeth.

The academy was awarded a Service Sector Education and Training Authority (Seta) contract in 2008 to train unemployed people from disadvantaged backgrounds. Thirty-eight-year-old Peter is one of the 40 beneficiaries currently enrolled there, having first seen the programme advertised in the local media.

“Everything is going well at the school. We are receiving a lot of practical and theory training,” said Peter, who comes from Zwide Township.

Fellow trainees come from nearby Motherwell, Missionvale, Helenvale and Gelvandale – all sprawling urban settlements on the outskirts of the city. But Peter has recently moved to the suburb of Walmer within Port Elizabeth to be closer to the academy.

Images 1 is a well-established institution that’s been going for 18 years. According to its principal, Marietta Millard, it’s also the only accredited private hairdressing academy in the province. Some, like Peter, are there on full government bursaries, but there are many privately funded students as well.

The group of 40 beneficiaries, ranging in age from 18 to 38, completed the first training module in August and are now working towards a level-two hairdressing certificate.

Millard said the first level focused on basic hairdressing skills such as shampooing, head massaging, blow-drying, relaxing, colour application and hair-extension maintenance. The next stage teaches students entrepreneurial skills.

Practical training

The students are on a short break at the moment and working at salons in the city to get practical experience. Peter is doing her stint at Cutting Edge salon in Walmer, but she has also spent time at other hairdressers to learn the ropes. “I have been to different salons [around Port Elizabeth] to see how things are done,” she said.

Millard and her team, which includes lecturer Elizma Powell and academy co-owner Anny Britz, source the paid internships from a network of 40 salons in the area, half of which are owned by the college’s alumni.

The salon has offered Peter a permanent position and she plans to work there part-time while continuing her training at the academy.

But, bigger things beckon for Peter. She plans to use her skills to establish her own businesses, either in Zwide or Walmer. “I would love to open a salon in this place [Walmer] but I can also make a success in Zwide,” she said.

“I want to support myself by owning my own businesses – we’re being taught how to run our own salons.”

Peter is also the official spokesperson of Images 1 Hair Academy. Millard said she’s ideal for the job as she can communicate in isiXhosa, the most widely spoken language in the Eastern Cape, and is incredibly knowledgeable about the institution.

Qualified and empowered

The group will finish their training in 2011 after completing all four academic levels.

Although the students are already well-equipped to work as hairdressers from home, the intention is for them to have a recognised qualification for the trade.

“They will be fully qualified by the end of level four. My goal is that they become self-employed and self-empowered with certificates,” said Millard.

“The group is very determined. I think they will all complete their course. [The training] has changed their lives already … they’re extremely talented.”

The students have the option of training further to receive additional certificates sponsored by Softsheen Carson, which owns cosmetic brands like Dark and Lovely and Blue Ice.

Softsheen Carson, Millard said, is very supportive of the institution and the sponsorships are based on a “good relationship”.

But more sponsorships are needed to “give the students what we don’t have”, said Millard.

Not just a flair for hair

Not only is the group showing an aptitude for splendid hairstyles, they’re also incredibly resourceful.

It’s the academy’s tradition to celebrate a successful academic year with a hair show, for which students are encouraged to make headpieces and hire models to show off their creations. But this posed a problem for the bursary students, as they didn’t have the funds to make the garb or pay models, who they had to style and dress themselves.

The group set out to collect waste such as plastic bags and bottles, boxes, wool, cans and bottle tops and, by sheer hard work and dexterity, they crafted their own headpieces, jewellery and outfits from it. To save money, the students modelled their own designs.

The event took place on 25 July at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth. “We had an amazing show,” said Millard.

The group’s creative efforts soon became a hot topic and a few days after the show their story was shown on a local television programme, Kwela.

Some of the jewellery made by the students was auctioned off and proceeds went to the Eastern Province Children’s Home, but the academy kept the collection of headpieces, aptly named Mama Africa. They are now reserved for exhibitions.

“The designs are priceless really … I can’t throw them away,” said Millard. “I’m looking for exposure for them.”

An exhibition is being organised for Jeffreys Bay, an hour’s drive from Port Elizabeth down the coast. The academy is also hoping to take the headpieces overseas and it’s negotiating to stage a show in Chicago, US, early next year.

“I would love it if a piece was exhibited in our Parliament or the White House. The students are handy and they’ve got patience and creativity. All they need is a little direction.”

Millard is hoping the bursary programme at the academy will continue after the first group graduates in 2011. “My vision is that this training will never stop. We’ve got so many unemployed people in the Eastern Cape.”