Tuesday, 17 May 2016

South Africa's Township Barber Shop Art

I’ve been living in South Africa for almost six years now and anyone that knows me will also know that I am an avid collector of anything of visual interest. In fairness most would think what I find visually interesting strange. It can be anything from a texture on a wall, aged billboard signs, street art, old architecture to vintage branding, signage and packaging design. The cell phone camera and large hard drives have saved my family home from a man cave cluttered with all the stuff. In my defence though, I am a commercial designer and being aware of your surroundings and able to see the world differently is so important. One of my pet hates are freshly briefed designers rushing off to Google for their only stream of inspiration. They miss the amazing visual library that surrounds them daily on the way to the office. My reference of collected visual interest has been invaluable to me over my two decades of a designer.

When I first moved to Cape Town in 2009, I went through a creative sensory overload. So many incredible cultures, new brands, fantastic new foods to discover and such a visual feast that I suddenly had laid out in front of me. Of great interest were some of the cultures from the townships. Areas where many had warned of crime I saw a great deal of culture and interest. Early on I started to notice that there was a unique, almost naive art style to the signage of the barbershops, which over the years has developed into one of my many visual collections.

The South African barbershop is far more than just a house of grooming but also a social space where many gather to discuss and gossip. From within townships, salons appear from one day to the next, coming and going on a dream of becoming a local entrepreneur, where the usual rules to beginning a business are very different to that of the city.

I found the signage of great interest, as the style of illustration, usually of a male head and shoulders, is pretty much the same throughout the country. What makes this even more interesting to me is that the visuals seem to of developed from a form of colloquialism from within the informal townships instead of any real intention to create a unique style.

I hope that you enjoy the images below. They are a very small selection from a rather large collection but I think that they really capture this cultural visual phenomenon of South African barbershop art.

Unknown Creative Director / Author

Todd Anderson is an award winning British designer currently based in Cape Town, developing innovative brand and packaging solutions with a variety of clients; partnering with some of the world's largest retailers, alongside nurturing smaller companies just starting out.


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