Rumbie Mutiswa’s journey from Zimbabwe to the Sydney hair scene is a bold, inspirational tale that champions the idea of embracing your true self. Best of all, she’s just getting started, writes McKenna Uhde.

As a hairdresser who runs a salon specifically catering to curly and Afro hair, Rumbie Mutsiwa strives to practice what she preaches to her clients at Rumbie and Co. salon, which, by her admission, isn’t always an easy task.

“It took me a long time to do this,” she said about her short, natural curly hair. “I preach to my clients that you’re enough and you don’t have to have your hair chemically straightened, but it was hard to go through with it. I remember one night picking up the paper scissors on my bedside table and just cutting it off. I thought, ‘this has to happen right now or it never will.’”

Feeling close to her natural self has been a large part of Rumbie’s personal mantra and business model. Encouraging others to embrace their Afro and curly hair is what has established her flourishing business. Now in Sydney, she has found her place inside the sizable industry as a beloved and successful wavy, curly and Afro hairdresser and extensionist.

Growing up in Zimbabwe, she said, hair was considered immaterial. “In Africa you can just sit down while you’re hanging out and braid – it’s not like every body braids but you’re just siting and laughing and someone is doing your hair. So you don’t look at hair as valuable, its just hair,” she said. Making the move to Sydney has provided an industry that she would have otherwise not experienced in Africa. She said it is only now that she has viewed hair as art – after watching Australian hairdressers’ creative processes. In an industry she believes to be lacking in Afro stylists, she feels she is offering an artistic and necessary aspect to the industry by going back to her roots.

Though now a blossoming industry professional, Rumbie’s inspiration wasn’t always so prevalent when conquering the world of hair. “I worked in nursing for about 6 years but I knew it wasn’t right. I kept changing roles to try something new and I was never satisfied,” she said. “Every night I would come home it would be ‘me’ time. I would write down what I’m good at, what I love, and my strengths. Time went on and I did this every day still, but then one day I had a feeling rush over me and I knew that I needed to quit my job.”

Without a job or a clear plan to conquer her new career path, Rumbie started applying extensions from her home. This was a perfect first move as a hairdresser, but slowly she began to discover the pitfalls. “I could apply extension and weaves flawlessly, but I couldn’t cut or colour, so clients would go somewhere else to finish the look,” she said. “That was my work, but I couldn’t reap the rewards.” This realisation pushed Rumbie to attend hairdressing school and take her career to another level.

After educating herself in the art of curly hair, Rumbie began her journey as a fulltime Afro and curly hairdresser. In the past she has experienced difficulty finding an Afro stylist for her own self and even now struggles to find apprentices who want to learn the components of curly hair.

In an industry that has struggled to provide curl professionals, Rumbie has had the opportunity to make her mark. She is currently creating a line of extensions ranging from Afro to kinky curl, to better suit clients’ ranging curl patterns.

“Most extensions I find don’t offer a multitude of curl patterns. So, if a client wants extensions, they often have to chemically straighten their natural hair to match the extensions. I plan to create a line that will merely enhance the hair you already have,” Rumbie said.

Now based in Chippendale, this Afro hairstylist and artist is constantly preaching to her clients the importance of being your true self, with or without a weave. She strives to display an excited and confident energy in her own work and life to inspire her clients to believe in her business mantra: ‘you are beautiful.’ So far, we would say, she’s succeeding.

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