HANDS OF ZAIN: THE AFROCENTRIC MASSEUR

Zain Nyabvure focusing his energy. Photo supplied

The brainchild of founder Zain Nyabvure’s dream to be a masseur with his own parlour, Hands of Zain is tucked away in the leafy suburb of Parkhurst. A former ambulance technician, Zain quit his job and moved to Johannesburg in 2014, in search of an internationally accredited massage institute. He explains “It was not easy to leave my paying job and sell all I had for some cash to start a life. But with the help of well-wishers I managed to graduate in 2017, while studying part-time and working crazy hours.”

Now a licensed massage therapist with a degree from the International Therapist Examination Council, Zain admits with a chuckle “I am expensive to hire! Most spas can’t afford me.” A glass ceiling hovers over his dream however, negative stereotypes and cultural norms have created a definite bias towards female masseuses. “It gave me motivation to open my own practise because I was not much on request (sic) since I was a male therapist.” Hands of Zain started out as a mobile parlour, and in May this year Zain took the leap and found a permanent home for his massage parlour. The result is an unusual spa with a homey feel and eclectic touch. My favourite feature was the outdoor patio and lounge pool, which includes an outdoor massage table for soaking in the sun during summer.

As we chat over a glass of wine, African artworks like djembe drums and masks jostle for the gaze alongside colourful modern artworks. One in particular catches my eye; a large moody abstract painting reminiscent of Robert Hodgins’ abstracts, and Zain reveals he painted it. The décor in his home is a testament to his travels with quirky details like African snail shells in flowerpots hinting at his childhood memories. He’s bright, animated and clearly passionate about massage therapy.

Zain Nyabvure inside his Hands of Zain. Photo supplied
Zain Nyabvure inside his Hands of Zain. Photo supplied

His idea of an excellent masseur? “People got to massage [therapy] to get relief from their daily stress (sic) and frustrations. So a good therapist needs to be able to create a nurturing and healing experience, not just a massage. Empathy is one of the most important qualities of a massage therapist.”

When hunting for a massage parlour he had some simple tips. “Know what your goals. Each of us are all looking for a something different from a massage…Are you looking for pain relief in a particular region of your body…treatment for a medical condition or are you just looking for stress relief or just want to enjoy the simple yumminess of getting a massage?”

“Figure out what your preferences are. Where do you want the treatment to be? Close to your home at a [massage parlour] or at your home as a house call? Once you know your preferences, don’t forget to look for these details on their website or you can just call or email them to ask. You will get to know a little bit more about the therapist simply by asking those questions. Focusing on how eager they are to accommodate you, will let you know if your experience with them will be a positive one.”

While Zain’s career highlights have included massaging high-profile celebrities in the Saxon Hotel Villas and Spa, the journey has not been without its mishaps. “[LOL] one day I received a text message from an unknown number saying ‘Can you come up here to Westcliff and give me a massage with a happy ending. I texted them back and the text reads ‘No, but here’s the phone number of someone who can help you with that. 071 675 6072’. … they texted back and said they were looking for someone hot like me. I texted them saying call and find out. Few hours later I got a text from the same number saying that, the number I had sent them was for Parkview Police station. I love to always have good responses in my back pocket like this one.”

Man with the magic hands, Zain Nyabvure. Photo supplied
Man with the magic hands, Zain Nyabvure. Photo supplied

Qualified to deliver classic European massages like the Swedish massage, Zain’s passion however lies in unusual African massage therapies such as the Rungu massage. His go-to massage oil remains the simple coconut oil and he is current working on his own massage techniques manual which will include the African styles and tips he has mastered thus far. His final tip to an aspiring masseur? A simple quote and heads up about the journey. Maya Angelou’s “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” and an admonition to always do your research.

To experience Hands of Zain, contact Zain at +27 81 413 8786 or email handsofzain@gmail.com.

Idara Udom


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