Rose Rouse rocks around Harlesden with Faisal Abdu’allah

This month writer meets up with barber and artist to tour NW10

Writer Rose Rouse is on an adventure – not in Cuba, Bali or the Outer Hebrides but in Harlesden where she lives. Every month, she walks and talks with friends and neighbours around busy NW10 and meets people you may have heard of living on your doorstep. This month, she meets Faisal Abdu’allah, an artist and owner of barber shop Faisal.What a brilliant combination, an internationally celebrated artist and a barber! Faisal Abdu’allah was born in Tubbs Lane, Harlesden, and has a stylish barber’s shop on the High Street.

Despite having a huge photographic show at Gran Canaria’s Centro Atlantico de Arte Moderno, Faisal still works as a barber on Saturdays in his shop which has boxer James de Gale and rapper Gappy Ranks as regulars.

“It keeps me real,” he says, “and often the clients’ stories become my art. I did a barber performance at Stanford University in California when I was a lecturer there.”

Recently, I met him at his shop – white modernity prevails – and we had a walk down the High Street. “I cut palm trees into my nephew’s head which prompted someone at City Barber’s that used to be almost opposite the Jobcentre, to invite me to cut hair. That was 20 years ago. Working there got me through Central St Martins and the Royal School of Art. I really like bringing together two worlds that don’t usually meet.”


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Passionate

At present, Faisal is photographing potential Team GB Olympics triple jumper Nadia Williams in training. “She has to jump another 36cm to qualify so that’s what this project is called,” he says. “That’s over in Hackney and sponsored by an investment bank. I would have loved to do something in Brent.” Is anyone in Brent listening?

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Faisal is passionate about Harlesden and as we’re walking past shops that admittedly look pretty bad, ie general lack of cleanliness and lack of window design, I discover that he has potential as Harlesden’s own Mary Portas. He has opinions about the place and how it could be. He suggests dressing spaces: in fact, he suggests a Harlesden shop makeover event where the shops have a visit from “the style police”!

“Brent Council needs to do a clean-up here; look at the pavements, they are filthy,” he exclaims. “After all, Harlesden is the gateway to Wembley. Look at these facades. There needs to be a standard set and an aesthetic created.

‘‘Windows are dirty, interiors are crammed with items and there’s not enough light. I know when I first did Faisal, we had the first plasma TV and all the other barbers stepped up their game.”

n Faisal, the barber’s shop is at 238 High Street, NW10. Faisal Abdu’allah’s work can be found at faisalabduallah.com More Not On Safari In Harlesden walks can be found at roserouse.wordpress.com

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