By Charly Agwam, Bauchi
WANZAM, a popular Hausa local method of shaving the hair has endured for many generations despite the emergence of modern barbing tools and techniques. Although, many youths and middle-aged men have moved on to modern day barbing by patronising salons and barbing parlours, the elderly men in Bauchi have continued to patronise local barbers, who use archaic shaving devices such as razor blades and other sharp items to shave the head of their patrons.
Interestingly, wanzam enjoys patronage from people from all social strata across the state. A local barber stationed in front of the Bauchi Central Mosque told Arewa Voice how patronage from influential people and average Nigerians has sustained his craft for many years. Mallam Salisu said that he enjoys his craft because it’s his little contribution to preserve his culture that was handed down to him by his father. He also noted how his craft has helped to sustain his family economically through the years.
He said: “This is what I do and I enjoy it. It is my own little way of preserving my culture and making some money for my family. I have been doing this craft for many years and so far; I think that people enjoy what I do because I have never lacked patronage despite the invention of clippers which some people now use for shaving their hair. Some people say our system is archaic and risky, but we have our ways of sanitising our tools. People who know the value of what we do have not stopped patronising us. I will do this for as long as I have strength because this is more than just earning a living; it is also about sustaining our culture.”
Arewa Voice met some people who patronise wanzam to find out their motives behind the patronage of the local craft instead of more modern and secure method of barbing/shaving their hair. Isah Adamu, a merchant in electronics, who is in his mid-50s said he has been intentionally patronising wanzam for the past 15 years to sustain his culture and the satisfaction he derives from the service he gets.
“Wanzami (same as wanzam) is ours. Nothing compares to the kind of smoothness you feel after a good shave. And you know, you get to learn from an elderly person because most of the wanzamis are older people. You can also get the cool breeze from the environment because the service is usually rendered under a shade in the open air. For the fact that it does not rely on electricity, the wazami does not incur cost of fueling a generator to provide alternative source of power,” he said while letting out a little smile.
“The price is also relatively cheap compared to the modern barbers. A lot of people also see it as a means of relaxation. There are times when I feel like talking to somebody, I just go to wazami because I know that we must have something to talk about.”
Another customer of Mallam Salisu, Nuhu Ahmed told Arewa Voice that his reason for patronizing wanzam is because the service rendered by his local barber makes his hair grow slower, which enables him to reduce frequent visit to the barber’s shop which also helps him to cut cost.
“I don’t how it happens but whenever I patronize my local barber, my hair takes time to grow unlike when I use clipper to shave. I think it is because the wanzamis style goes deeper to remove the hair while the clippers just cut the hair on the surface. I am still a struggling man so by not going to the barber frequently, I am able to save some money and divert it to other use,” he said.
However, a public health expert, Mercy Ibrahim, faulted the approach and method of the wanzamis, saying that the system predisposes its customers to all manner of diseases.
Her words: “I am not sure what they use now but I knew when they were using razor blades and knives. Because of how close to each other they sit, they are exposed to tuberculosis and other communicable diseases. The brush they use may also transfer microorganisms like fungi diseases. They also stand the risk of contracting HIV and hepatitis.
“Nevertheless, they can employ the use of face mask and hand gloves to reduce contact. There is also the need to sterilize the object they use so that the possibility of transfer of diseases from one person to the other will reduce. Generally, there is nothing wrong with patronizing local barbers as long as they can make it safe,” Ibrahim submitted.