Once a year, hundreds of Dutch Hairdressers compete in the prestigious Coiffure Awards. This is where the top of the top show their hairdo skills and creativity by sending in a photo series to be judged.

Last year our team won two awards so the pressure is on.

This year we go back to Africa again, the place where we met and grew creatively as a team, to further explore it’s influence on our creations.

Our idea is to scout people on the streets of Rwanda to model for us.

Because that would show real mastership in creating award worthy images. To be able to take ‘normal’ people and transform them into their best version, without the possibility to think ahead and prepare.

It is big risk, but also a challenge that excites us.



Turns out, we had a big problem to overcome with our concept.

In all of Rwanda, the vast majority of the men have their heads millimetered. There is no hair variety to be found here.

This is not so handy when you are looking for faces with lots of hair to create beautiful hairdos with. It starts to daunt us that our idea might not work in this specific country..

But we do not want to give up so we decide to continue searching for the rare ones with hair. But also fly in some models from Cape-Town as a back-up. This realization happens two days pre-shoot, so you can probably  imagine the logistic chaos.

A local ‘Salon the Coiffure’

18-01-2020 Scouting locations
We get into a cab and as soon as we start driving it starts pouring with rain. Heavy, heavy rainfall that takes away all sight.

Our driver starts wiping away the condensation from the windows but there is no start to it. We ask him if we should better stop and wait for a bit, but he wants to keep driving.

It is raining so bad that it even starts leaking INSIDE the cab.

Unfortunately this old car also turns out to be pretty uncooperative. The windows won’t open. And when I decide to get out of the car to snap a picture, we find out that the handles are broken. So our driver needs to jump out and run through the rain to let us out, each time we think we see something worthy.

Our hunt for pretty backdrops proves to be a difficult task since everything is grey and faded.

We return with a list of potential areas, mixed feelings and strong hopes for better weather the next morning.

19-01-2020 Shoot day 1

We start our shoot in a tiny neighborhood within Kigali. As soon as we walk up to the spot we chose – a background with earth toned houses and bright colored walls – the whole villages comes out to have a look at what is going on. David, our fixer and tolk, asks for us if they are ok with us shooting in front of their houses.

Soon we find out how nice and sweet these Rwandan people are. We are welcomed with curious eyes and big smiles.

First from a distance, but after a little while they stand everywhere around us to observe or even steal a piece of the show in the background of the lens.

Model in Kigali Rwanda
Photographer in Africa

In the end we didn’t include any of the photos with these lovely locals in the background in our series. This is because we discussed that we don’t want others to see this shoot and think that we chose this location in a ‘poverty porn’ kind of way.

That is not the picture of Africa we want to send out into the world.

Especially not since we were lucky enough to get to experience this beautiful piece of the earth and it’s inhabitants to say that this country has so much more to offer.

High five
Model with banana's and bicycle

Michelle snaps unplanned shots of both Josh and George while waiting in the bus. Which turn out so good, that we add them to the photo series.

Our bus is not only our way of transport but also functions as a fitting room, makeup corner, barber chair, chicken coop, canteen and general home base.

Model looking outside from a bus
Model sitting in a bus

20-01-2020 Shoot day  2

Rain at the end of the first day means we run out of time to shoot Pim, our street scouted Dutch expat, despite him waiting patiently all day. So we are really happy when he agrees on a second chance with a super early, quick shoot before work.

It is bright and sunny today. A fruit selling lady walks by with a basket that we see fit as a prop. We buy all her bananas in return for some shots.

The fruit basket is too heavy to hold with one arm, so David comes to the rescue by stepping under it.

Hairdresser on the street

Next up is a visit to the local market. We place George in between the banana bunches and immediately attract a lot of attention. The market visitors form a circle around us. Is it a girl or a boy, a man next to me asks.

“A HE, really? But he so beautiful. And his hair so.. different.”

Hairdresser on set
Model on a market
Kigali market photoshoot
Mother and child Rwanda
Crowd market Rwanda

After a little while the sellers start to become a little irritated and the crowd restless so we decide to leave. But first we need to find food for lunch and chickens for our next shot.

We leave this task up to our fixers, since we would be charged the more expensive “Muzungu” prices.

Muzungu means ‘white person’ and is derived from a contraction of words meaning “one who moves around,” and was coined to describe Europeans who traveled through East Africa in the 18th century.

When we find two roosters to buy, they are handed to us upside down held by their paws, ready to be cooked and eaten. But these ones are lucky.

It is our intention to give these animals a better life, so we start by giving them water and letting them walk freely in our bus during this shoot day.

They, unfortunately, didn’t seem to like each other that much.

For the next couple of shots, we are out of location ideas so we just start driving till we find a beautiful view as a backdrop for Cedric and Shakes.

I scouted Cedric while having drinks in a local bar a week before this shoot.

He stood out because he was one of the few men with a head full of fantastic hair. Turns out he is an amazing fashion designer as well, so we were really happy to have another creative involved.

Rwanda photoshoot
Model with Rwanda kids

Moses is our second street scouted model. We only just met him two days ago on the market. Together with Josh, we place him in front of a brick wall that opens up to a cornfield.

Soon we hear rustling and some kids appear to peak around the corner behind them. It’s funny how even in the most remote-looking places, people seem to immediately notice our presence and attend the whole village to come out to watch what we do.

Rwanda kids
Hairstyling photoshoot
Rwanda photoshoot cornfields
Closeup models in cornfield
Photographer on a bus Rwanda
Models in Rwanda cornfield
Model in Rwanda cornfield
Bicycle riding Rwanda
Photoshoot behind the scenes

It is good to see Kristi, our stylist, smiling again. The evening before our shoot she arrived in Kigali with the news that her suitcase with most of the designer clothing was lost.

It brought a few tears and lots of stress but with some creativity and borrowed clothes we managed to make things work on day 1. Luckily the next morning she received a call to pick up her stuff at the airport. So on day two, there was still time left to use the actual prepped styling.

Last up are our bird friends that traveled with us in the bus all day.

Photoshoot behind the scenes in Africa
Rwanda photoshoot behind the scenes
Rooster looking at laptop

When the photo shoot is finished, we give the roosters to a friend so that they can roam free in a big garden.

Funnily, while retouching the Coiffure photos some days later, the red rooster is cheeky enough to sneak inside our house to come and say hi. Maybe he wanted to see how his modeling photo was coming along?

At this last location, again, we had pulled a pretty big crowd of curious people. A passing motor driver uses it to show off his stunts, driving up and down the road while dangerously swinging his legs up in the air.

The sun is almost setting so we need to hurry up to get the last shot taken.

People watching hairdresser at photoshoot

Photoshoot prep in bus

21-01-2020 The day after

It’s crazy to think how much we’ve seen, done and achieved in only two days’ time – although they were long and hectic. When we thought we could finally chill for a bit, half of our team becomes instantly sick.

Headaches, fever, and coughing our lungs out. We all have no idea what it could be. Maybe food poisoning?

My fever gets so bad that my friends bring me to the hospital. But even after many tests, they have no idea what it could be. Possibly a parasite they tell me.

After a week the fever gets less and it is time to return home to the Netherlands. There I end up at the physiotherapist, telling me I have a permanent state of hyperventilation which should explain my shortness of breath.

At that time we still had no idea, but I keep wondering…

Could it be that we were hit by a very early case of Covid-19?

Taking shelter under a palm leave

Team credits

The thing I love about creating these blogs, is that they give context. The final photos, written stories and behind the scenes combined tell a story. One that hopefully shows how much love and effort of our amazing team was put into the creation of this series.

Make-up & Hair Artist Juliëtte den Ouden
Photographer Michelle van Dijk
Retoucher Zilla van den Born
Stylist Kristi Vlok
 Boss Agency models Josh Scheepers, George Hard, Shakes Mbolekwanda
Street scouted models Pim van Baarsen, Mizero Cedric, Oung-Vang Moïse II,
Josh Greene

Videographer Nyirijuru Lucky Gabriel
Local fixers Dushimirimana David, Ngiriyambonye Jackson


Our team was also nominated for the Coiffure Awards Women 2020 and won two awards at the Coiffure Awards 2019.