Turning at Nyaniba Estates Junction and onto the small back roads of Labone takes you to the salon. The salon is basically a porch and a cement-floored backyard sheltered by metal roofing sheets. Under this roof sit approximately 30 women, braiding the hair of 20-30 customers at a time. When you get there, you ask for Auntie Alice, tell her what style you want done, then go to the hair shop and purchase your choice of extensions.
Then you wait. And wait and wait and wait.
If you’re “lucky” you may get there between 8.30 and 10.30 when a woman leads morning devotion, getting staff and customers to sing along to the hymns and gospel songs she has chosen. At times, it creates a cosy, solemn atmosphere, other times I almost cringe as her voice screeches over the too high notes. What’s less impressive is when she shoves her bucket in your face, asking for a reward for her singing. I guess even praying isn’t free in today’s world. Before she leaves she prays over Auntie Alice, with the rest of us hearing stage whispers of several “in the name of Jeeeizuz” repeated rapidly.
Staff, customers and groundnut/boiled egg/snack sellers weave their way through the rows of chairs with customers, while trying not to trample the hens (and sometimes dogs) running around, their scrawny legs caught up in excess hair extensions.
Before my turn of braiding comes (waiting time is sometimes an hour), I manage to catch women leaving with a variety of styles, innovative, traditional, daring, colourful and some, plain wacky.
Auntie Alice salon: a true Ghanaian experience that I doubt you’ll find in many guidebooks.