HomeArticlesArts & CultureConnecting a Community with The God Barber, Joe Tongi
The God Barber’s Joe Tongi

Connecting a Community with The God Barber, Joe Tongi

Kobi Facto | November 2020

“I feel it’s a duty of mine, as a citizen of the Gold Coast and a Barber, to look after each other,” says The God Barber’s Joe Tongi.

What started as a two-week reconnaissance to the Gold Coast turned into a 10 year residence for The God Barber’s Joe Tongi. Now the popular Burleigh Heads Barber is sharing his skills with students of Arcadia College as part of ‘Don & Dappered’ at the Gold Coast’s Bleach* Festival in November 2020.

Growing up and attending Kelston Boys High School in New Zealand, Joe’s two greatest passions were Rugby and cutting hair. He would practice his barber skills on teachers and fellow students and enjoyed melding Tongan and Samoan tradition in his style.

It was during a Rugby trip to the UK in 1997 that Joe landed his first job as a barber. This short stint fuelled his fire to perfect the art and he later returned home to study at the New Zealand Academy of Hairdressing. For over a decade, Joe worked as a Barber across New Zealand from West Auckland’s famous Kim’s Cuts, Cutting Crew and his very own Westcoast Barber Shop.

“I grew up with my parents taking me to the beach on a Sunday. It always brought so much joy to the family. I remember that was my happy place,” says Joe.

“There is always joy around beach life – and I thought, I want my kids to grow up with that.”

“After my business in New Zealand closed I thought, I’ll go to the Gold Coast like all these other Kiwis, throw up some scaffolding and live the dream,” Joe laughed.

“I did scaffolding for two hours! I thought to myself, this is not me. So I walked up to the man and I said, thanks very much for the job but I’m off to the beach.”

Joe remembers calling his wife and kids to join him when a chance meeting sealed his Gold Coast fate.

“We were down at the beach enjoying ourselves and we walked past this barber shop. I looked in and funnily enough it was a young kid I used to mentor in my own barber shop back home – he was now the manager at this place. He said to me, Do you want a job? And I said, I can start tomorrow and I’ll work 8 days”!

“Eventually he opened the barber shop which is now The God Barber in Burleigh Heads and I’ve been doing that and skateboarding to work ever since,” Joe says.

Joe is now the lead mentor in ‘Don & Dappered’, a series of intensive barbering workshops that will form part of the Gold Coast’s Bleach* Festival in November 2020. The program invites a group of young men from Arcadia College with Pacific Island and diverse cultures on a journey of self-discovery, social inclusion and leadership – exploring what it means to be a young person in today’s society whilst preparing themselves for careers as the next generation of barbers and creatives.

“Being a barber, you get to hear a lot of stories and a lot of different points of view,” says Joe.

“It’s great for the students to be exposed to the general community. They realise everyone has a story, just like them.”

“In our industry, when you put a barber’s cape on somebody to cut their hair – whether they have a shirt and tie on, whether they have drugs in their pocket, whether they’ve got money in their pocket, whether they’ve got a collar as a religious leader. Once you put that cape on, we’re all the same.”

“You respect that person and you’ll get the same respect back,” Joe explains.

“I feel the program has brought out a lot of positives in the students. It’s about teaching young men to become gentleman and teaching life skills through barbering.”

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