The nail art industry in Juba is booming. Run entirely by men – I haven’t yet seen a woman doing manicure/pedicure work – working out of salons or wandering the streets with a small box of lotions and polishes, door-to-door, you can get a relatively good mani-pedi for ten bob a pair here. I am addicted.
The picture is of my friend Joseph’s nail art options, including the USA flag, “I love Jesus” or “I love Mum” options, and the ever-popular flowers, starbursts and sparkly rainbows in henna-like patterns. Fake nails on the feet (just the feet) are extremely popular among local residents, to cover a variety of damaged nails from hard roads; the little plastic nails are glued on with superglue, which I’m not sure is a great idea, and kept very long. Not my style, though.
Men are also good customers of the wandering nail bar men. This summer, the popular male style was buffed, with clear varnish; now it’s getting more complicated. Many men, particularly the cool young things and boda drivers, are getting their last two fingernails on their left hand painted – the little finger and the ring finger – either with henna, in a semi-circle over the tip, or with a bright colour. I’ve asked a few friends who’ve had it done and they say it’s a style born of boredom! Some men also henna matching toes on their left foot. I still have no real idea why.
My regular guys Joseph and Jimmy have asked me to bring back “new colours” from the UK when I go in January. There’s a limited range here, because it’s mostly a few Chinese companies and importers doing beauty supplies, and they say their businesses will really take off if I help them invest. I’m thinking of bringing a range of holographic glitters, dark pinks, and pastels – hopefully in exchange for free pedicures for life.