Rwanda: How a Barber's Creative Videos Made Him One of Kigali's Top Hairstylists

If you've heard of him, or perhaps come across some of the videos he shares on his Instagram page, you will most likely agree that Martin Safari is a very creative fellow.

In his skits, Safari is seen cutting clients' hair with all sorts of tools, including hammers. Yes, hammers. And, dressed for the part, in some, like a mechanic about to attend to a car that needs fixing. Not to confuse anyone, the videos are acted out, he doesn't actually cut hair with a mechanic's tools.

As a kid, Safari always imagined himself living out his life as an artist--a truly remarkable one--with a pallet, pencils, brushes, and paint as his only wish.

But his parents hoped for something different. They wanted him to be a medical doctor, which is why he has done sciences throughout his school years.

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Who would have guessed that, years later, he would not make a living from art or medicine? Not him, at least.

Safari recounts how he followed his parents' guidance and majored in sciences, abandoning his interest in art in the process.

Until, one typical afternoon, at the boarding school in Uganda where he was a student when a friend asked if he could trim his hair, reasoning that he couldn't afford a haircut outside of school.

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From then on, without even realising it, he picked up a new hobby. And so, it remained a mere pass time, just a courtesy to his peers.

But the demand kept rising, so together with his friends, they smuggled a clipper into school. And he also started charging for his services.

"I had even stopped asking for pocket money from my parents. So when I went back home for the holidays, I decided to take it to another level. I subscribed to some of the biggest barbers' YouTube channels and took some online courses," he explained.

Safari had significantly improved by the end of the break, so much so that his old school noticed and even hired him as the official school barber. Shortly after graduating, he ran a modest barbershop in the same neighbourhood, before moving back home to Rwanda.

The 23-year-old has now made a reputation for himself in Kigali as a skilled barber.

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The young barber's appointments are usually secured online, through his Instagram handle, @safro_fades, where he also posts most of his work, presenting it in a unique and creative way. He currently doesn't have a fixed location and offers home services.

Safro, as many people refer to him, was formed from his name, while fades signifies the different shades of a haircut.

A haircut ranges from Rwf15, 000 and above, with a special house package of Rwf20, 000, depending on one's style of choice and other options, like dyeing, etc. It usually takes between 40-50 minutes.

"I think my talent didn't fully disappear. People tell me that they see my art just by looking at how I present my content and the way I make a haircut. This gives me the ultimate satisfaction," he said.

Safari attributes some of his success to the 'beauty of existing in this era'.

"I can imagine that if this was a decade ago, I would just be some other barber. But because of technology and social media platforms, through proper content creation, I'm able to reach my desired audience, willing to pay adequately for my services," he shared.

Safari notes to make it as a content creator, and maintain consistency and creativity.

"Most of my clients are Rwandans, but considering their conservative nature, I usually have a hard time convincing them to let me post them on my online page," he explained, referring to reasons that could lead to delayed exposure.

In Safari's opinion, one can succeed in whichever career path they choose to pursue, whether they had or not initially anticipated or dreamed of it.

"Make sure you master your craft, attract and keep your clients coming back and then promote your craft and then, make money," he said.

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