This barber has the tools to shape our nation
Great hair runs in Yogesh Govan’s family. When his great-grandfather arrived in South Africa from India, he set up a barbershop. Govan’s grandfather followed in 1929, working as a hairdresser in the Cape Town city centre. In 1957, he moved shop to a building near Bo-Kaap, which Govan’s father eventually took over. Today Govan stands in that same space, clippers and cut-throat razors his instruments of change.
South Africa has a complicated history with hair. The apartheid government used the infamous pencil test to classify and divide people. The qualities of our hair, and how we chose to wear it, became a huge part of our identity. In recognition of this, barbers around the country are using their art to honour our history, and make a contribution to the future. Govan and his team are recreating Nelson Mandela’s iconic haircut – a distinct path shaved on the side of his head. “We call it old school, but it had a gentleman’s look. That’s how I remember Madiba,” Govan says. The revival of the haircut was initiated by the Nelson Mandela Foundation’s #ShaveToRemember campaign. The shaved path serves as a reminder of our late president and his path to freedom. “It’s nice to see the youngsters today still think of Madiba and keep that form of his legacy alive,” Govan says.
At Yogi’s Barbershop, Govan is preserving an iconic South African look, as well as the heritage of his family. His barbering skills are matched only by his passion for people. “A barbershop is not just a place where you cut hair,” Govan says. “It’s where you bear witness to people’s lives and stories that they tell.” The people that walk through these doors, their experiences and their histories, have become increasingly more diverse as the decades pass. “It was important to me that I create an environment that is inclusive to everybody,” Govan says. What this fourth-generation barber does goes beyond haircuts and trimmed beards. It’s about shaping a space for connection.