20 January 2023

Grace Wani offers an 'Afrolook' in Wagga after a whirlwind journey from South Sudan

| Shri Gayathirie Rajen
Join the conversation
Grace Wani

Grace Wani opened Afrolook in 2011. Photo: Shri Gayathirie Rajen.

Grace Wani started her ‘Afrolook’ hair salon in 2011 just to see if she could run the business.

“When the shop owner was selling the place, I thought, let me give it a try,” Grace said.

“So I gave it a go, and it’s been 12 years!”

Grace had some retail experience after managing a cafe in South Sudan before moving to Australia as a refugee in 2003.

Situated in the corridors of the Australian Arcade, Afrolook is the only African hair salon in Wagga that specialises in hair extension, cornrows, braiding and dreadlocks.

“I work alone, and most of the time, I do one person a day … single braids take a long time.”

READ ALSO US academy shows interest in young Wagga basketballer

Grace learned to braid hair as a young girl.

“It’s a cultural thing,” Grace shrugged.

“Back in Africa, kids start learning at a young age and learn from each other. There was no school to go to and learn how to braid.”

Grace also works at a nursing home, having finished her nursing studies in Wagga in 2009.

Her wish is to keep growing her business.

“Soon, I won’t be able to work there and here … I’ll be tired,” she said. “I’m getting old.”

The 50-year-old mother of four was born in Uganda and raised in South Sudan.

Grace Wani

Grace and her children spent two years in Egypt before moving to Australia. Photo: Supplied.

In 2007, four years after moving to Australia, Grace separated from her husband and moved to Wagga from Sydney.

“We were in Egypt for two years before moving to Australia, and my youngest was also born there,” Grace said.

“I’ve got two girls and two boys, and they are now 30, 26, and 22, and the baby is 19.”

Grace had only one friend in Wagga when she made the move, a decision she said has been a “good” step in her life.

“The African community here works together. I’ve had a lot of help from the people at the church.”

READ ALSO SpongeBob SquarePants comes to life courtesy of Wagga cartoonist

Grace’s youngest son, Wani Gwada, recently travelled to America after receiving a partial scholarship to play basketball at Florida Sports Academy.

After years of supporting his sporting interest she is proud of his success.

“I’m so happy,” Grace said. “It wasn’t easy until I learned how to drive, and I had to drive everywhere.

“I used to drive to Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney for his games, and most of the training meets were at Newcastle.”

In 2018 Grace missed her flight to Brisbane, where her son was representing NSW at the Pacific School Games.

Wani Gwada

Grace is proud of how far her youngest, Wani Gwada, has come. Photo: Supplied.

“I missed my flight to Brisbane, so I just jumped in the car and drove,” Grace said.

“I told myself I have to be there for my son when the ceremony started.

“I made it on time, went straight there and changed in the car.”

Grace is proud of how far she has come, raising her children, managing her business and seeing her youngest son pursuing his dream.

“It was hard when the kids were young … my English was a problem and learning it was difficult,” she said.

“When we arrived in Sydney, there was a lot of support from the people at the church … they would come to take us shopping and take us out.”

Grace said the great thing about living in Wagga was that it wasn’t too busy like Sydney.

“I like it … it’s very quiet.”

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments

Daily Digest

Want the best Riverina news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riverina stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.