Meet the Eastern Cape barber who creates 3D portraits of celebrities on people's heads

Lonwabo Takata opened started cutting hair in 2013 and opened his home barbershop in 2020.
Lonwabo Takata opened started cutting hair in 2013 and opened his home barbershop in 2020.

He has a love for art - he can draw, paint, sculpt and shave hair.

Talented artist Lonwabo Takata (25) merged his talents together to create something unique - 3D hairstyles.

He always wanted to go to an art school but never got opportunities due to finances. He dropped out of high school but he didn't let that stop him from pursuing his dream of being an artist. His medium is people's hair.

hair, beauty
Riky Rick haircut by Lonwabo Takata

“I am a born artist,” he tells Drum.

His dream has always been to have his artwork sell internationally and have his own art gallery but he struggled to even sell enough to make a living locally.

“My dream was to always be an artist and do sculpture work. I used to sell my artwork, but I stopped because there were no clients. Not many people are into the culture of buying art, they don’t see the value,” he says.

Despite financial challenges, he continued to paint as a hobby.

“I continued to paint and do sculptures and sell them when I can. I entered competitions at school. It’s always been my gift, something that I crave, not just for the money but I do it out of pleasure. In school, I would customize sneakers and denim jackets.”

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He started cutting hair as a way of making a living when the art was not paying his bills.

“I started cutting hair in 2013. I would do house calls or cut people in the field or my bedroom. Just before lockdown, I opened an informal barber at home and named it Veinrawyal Barbers."

Before opening the barbershop, he was doing a Business Management learnership at a company in Mthatha.

“For the learnership, we got a stipend of R2000 a month which I used for transport, food, clothes, and to buy equipment for cutting hair,” he says.

Then he was doing regular haircuts.

“I decided I needed to be creative and find something that makes me stand out. I went on YouTube to check how I can do my haircuts differently and I saw someone making portraits.”

Already gifted with the skill of drawing and painting, he knew it would be easy to pull it off.

“My first few haircuts were of US rapper Tupac, then Nelson Mandela and Barak Obama. People loved the work, and I did Cassper Nyovest, Black Coffee, many others, and recently Riky Rick when he passed,” he says.

hair, beauty
Barak Obama haircut by Lonwabo Takata
beauty, hair
Black Coffee haircut by Lonwabo Takata

His work received much attention on social media and even got a nod from Black Coffee.

“People love the work because it’s different. My portraits are all realistic and easily identifiable. The only thing we lack is resources as I am still working from my home barbershop.”

All the money he makes, he uses to upgrade his barbershop.

“I started 2020, working in front of the house. I then worked at a hair salon renting a chair in town and after work, I would cut hair from the local carwash. I now have four other guys who joined me. I trained them how to cut hair and how to make portraits. Whatever money we make, we share and use it towards getting equipment to try and grow the business. If we continue, I know in a few years we will be far,” Lonwabo says.

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Born in Mthatha, Lonwabo dropped out of high school in Grade 10 after getting an ancestral calling. 

“I got a spiritual calling when I was in school, and my parents could not understand it. I fought with them because there was witchcraft and things at school. I wanted to change schools, but they refused and I ended up being a street kid from 2016 December until April 2017 after they tried to beat me with a metal rod,” he says.

“I ran away from home and lived at a friend’s place from church. His parents ended up kicking us out and we lived outside in a field on cardboard boxes.”

A few months later, Lonwabo got a dream that they should go back to his friend’s mom to apologise.

“We went back and a few weeks later, my friend received money from the Road Accident Fund from his father’s death, and that is how his life got back to normal. I went back later to my parents when they saw that I was okay, hustling and trying to be something in life.”

Lonwabo would love to go back to school to study art and live his dream. 

“I want to study art, that is my passion and I know one day it will come true.”

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