Mark Kaigwa

Mbugua Gets a Good Look

In Perspective, Real Talk on December 29, 2008 at 8:15 pm

I had the honour of christening my barbershop in South B ‘GoodLook Barbershop’ this evening. My barber- Mbugua was one of the hundreds of people affected by the government’s amazingly orchestrated demolition scheme in South B.

Destroying all standing structures on the ‘Road Reserve’ their tact was simple but effective. Tuesday whilst collecting occasional bribes and mingling with the residents they hear the familiar jibe “We’re coming to bomoa (demolish) you guys next Monday, you know.” Amidst banter, negotiation of kick-backs, and such.

They came that very Friday, and didn’t leave a single standing structure, save for the Container turned Shop outside Zanzibar Lane, and the Butchery – They had to really jitetea ( plead their case) with meat that would go bad, fridges, and other amenities. So they stood, and I came that evening to find my barber Mbugua gone, his partner barber Sam gone and Mbugua’s mentor, and probably the most popular barber in South B- Kinyash gone.

Sad, and with a gruff, hairy face I went my way. I enjoy getting cut at the barbershop. It’s a social thing I guess in its own way, with witty discussions and all the repartee of a salon, this is the testosterone-filled equivalent.

So, it broke my heart the next morning to come and find Sam and all the other people affected by the demolition. They had a little protest march. I got glimpses through the white gates of Zanzibar Lane. I met him at the matatu stage and I told him to stay strong. I promised that if he set up again that I would pass by and ‘promote’ him and Mbugua- they had been partners at this barbershop for little more than 8 months. But Sam’s brother is the one who owned the business.

He gave me his phone number. And with a meeting tomorrow where I just had to look the part, not alongside all this gruff, rugged and manliness crawling over my chin and jaws. It’s too distracting to the common mwananchi, but it’s a great disguise with all the attention I seem to be drawing from a popular billboard right now 😉

I came this evening, they had electricity, but alas, Mbugua and Sam who were the tag-team that formed ‘Lucky Barbershop’ were no more. They were together but in separate shanties. A shrewd lady had actually demolished her own wall, built up shanties and was to rent out these kiosks to the previous owners, at twice the price of the rent.

She was now renting it out at Ksh.7000 a month, that’s around $90 a month. Meagre it may seem, but imagine paying that from when you paid around $30 a month. It was a leap, but like in any business, Mbugua and Sam stuck to their individual guns and would stick it out.

So I pass by Mbugua’s and it’s barely complete, he just got the electricity done, two fluorescent lights strapped hastily across the mabati roof. It’s 8:30 PM, the eerie light bathing the piles of sand and ballast outside his barbershop. I see the words ‘Barber’ painted in a fading red, probably the something oxide used that morning to make sure edges of the mabati doesn’t rust.

And I get my cut. And yes. It’s a good look. But in between our conversation there’s the feeling that he’s going to have to really compete with Sam on this one. I haven’t been into Sam’s, but I can even feel that Mbugua’s clippers aren’t as sharp. My hair doesn’t give him any problems, but if I had nappier hair I wouldn’t be smiling. Sam’s also has music, the radio plays and leaks into our stall. It’s got some bass so I know he’s got something decent on his side.

I look at Mbugua’s side and I see a speaker with wires showing while it sits on top of a wood base around a foot and a half off the ground. ” We’re going to do it big this time,” he says “I’m going to get a DVD (LCD Screen with a Video CD Player) and I’m going to play whatever my customers want.” So if I’m feeling a little mellow that day, he’ll play me some blues as I get my cut, or some reggae to ease my soul after the troubling day.

Good Look is on it’s way to looking better. Let’s hope it works out for him.

Mbugua’s got dreams, and God know we all do.

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  1. Interestingly the city council decides to demolish the structures after a decade or so after people have a means to sustain breath in their bodies! So unfair considering the lack of employment!
    Lovely story.

  2. […] always activity in the busy nano strip-mall of shacks and hutches. As you already know, Mbugua has his place right next to Sam’s. I tried to be diplomatic, going to Sam’s every once in a while, especially when I saw that […]

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