I’ve had a weird couple of months. After epic trips around South Africa, Reunion Island, and the United States, I returned to Joburg via Istanbul with a case of raging jet lag. My cat ran away. Then he came back. And there’s been plenty more that I haven’t written about on my blog.

Amidst all of this, or perhaps because of it, I underwent an extreme makeover.

Extreme Makeover, Part 1: Screech of the Hadeda

The story started last Tuesday morning at 1933 Classic Tattoos in Braamfontein.

Come to think of it, the story started several months earlier, when I Googled “hadeda pictures” and found this drawing by South African artist Dick Latimer.Dick Latimer hadeda

The most beautiful hadeda I’ve ever come across. Courtesy of Dick Latimer.

I’d been thinking for a while about Joburg-themed tattoos. The Joburg skyline? I love it but too many people already have that tattoo. A Joburg sunset? Too cliché. Nelson Mandela Bridge? Eh…I’m not sure why, but no. A Parktown Prawn? No effing way.

Then it hit me: the hadeda. If you’re not South African, you probably have no idea what a hadeda (pronounced HA-dee-dah) is. If you are South African, you know the hadeda is the most iconic of Joburg icons. Love them or hate them (I love them), hadedas (together with their signature 4:00-a.m. screeches) are synonymous with Joburg.

I searched online for photos but came up empty. Hadedas silhouettes are easy to come by, but I wanted to capture the true essence of the bird: the shimmery gray-silver feathers that flash pink and purple and green in just the right light.

Then I found Dick Latimer’s drawing.

I emailed Dick, who I’ve never met before and who I believe lives somewhere in the Eastern Cape, and asked to use his drawing as the basis of my tattoo. He agreed. (Thanks Dick, you’re awesome.)

And now, back to 1933 Classic Tattoos.

1933-Classic-Tattoos1933 Classic Tattoos.

1933 is one of the most respected tattoo shops in Joburg and it takes weeks or even months to get an appointment there. (1933’s owner, Rasty Knayles, is a well-known graffiti artist and friend of Ray. Rasty also runs a graffiti gallery and paint business in the space next to 1933.) I’d been looking forward to my 1933 appointment for weeks and last Tuesday was finally the day. Ronald, Rasty’s colleague, was my tattoo artist.

Ronald-inkRonald prepares the ink for my tattoo.

 I’ve been tattooed once before, but this was the first tattoo that I’d really planned and thought out. I wasn’t sure how long it would take or how painful it would be. I felt surprisingly nervous.

Ronald printed out Dick’s picture and stencilled it onto my shoulder.

Tattoo01I loved it even before the ink. (Photo: Ronald)

And then it began. My friend Fiver arrived just after we started.

Tattoo02Trying to stay cool. (Photo: Fiver Löcker)

Unlike my last tattooing, I was completely sober during this process and pretty relaxed. I took more notice of the way it felt.

Tattoos feel different for everyone, and it depends on the artist and the size of the tattoo. But for me, the sensation was only mildly painful. When the needle first touched my skin it sent faint, almost pleasant tingles up and down the nerves in my back. This might sound weird but I was a little sad when Ronald said he was finished. The whole thing took less than an hour.

Tattoo03Finished. (Photo: Fiver Löcker)

Extreme Makeover, Part 2: Burn Baby, Burn

As luck would have it, the next day I had a hair appointment with Boyden from Freedom Hair. I’ve written about Freedom Hair before so I’ll be brief. But I will say that Freedom Hair is the coolest place to get your hair done in Joburg. I’ve always had commitment issues when it comes to hair salons, especially since I moved to South Africa, but I’ve officially found my forever hair home.

BoydenBoyden, founder of Freedom Hair in Melville.

Over the last few months, as I’d been thinking of getting a hadeda tattoo, I was also thinking of getting some funky hair color. A streak of blue, or maybe purple. This was a radical decision for me. Other than one round of blonde lowlights, circa 2003, I’ve never colored my hair. But after about 30 years of the same hair style I was finally bored.

I discussed my blue/purple streak plan with Boyden in advance. But when I came in on Wednesday he said he’d given the issue serious thought and strongly recommended I go with red. I wasn’t so sure about the idea but after some reflection I decided to defer to the expert. I gave the green light for red hair.

Boyden put my hair into little pony tails and put bleach on the ends. We sat outside for a while waiting for the bleach to work. Before I knew it, my hair was half blonde.

I guess it’s going to be more than a streak. There’s no going back now. (Photo: Boyden)

Then Boyden stirred up the color.

Red-hair-dyeHoly sh*t. That’s a really red red.

Boyden painted the red over the blonde parts and we let it sit for a while again. Then he washed, cut, and dried my hair.

Hair-dryingCutting. (Photo: Fiver Löcker)

Hair-curlersCurlers. I totally went out and bought some of these so I can rock this look in the future.

Three hours later, my hair was on fire.

Finished-hairBoyden, you were so right.

A week later, my tattoo is healed and my hair is still flaming.

Extreme makeover glamour shot, courtesy of Ray.

We couldn’t resist doing another one. 

Makeover mission accomplished. Thanks Boyden and Ronald. I couldn’t be happier.

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