By Ange Ngu Thomas
Like most people who have patiently grown their hair into locks, I was shocked when I read this story about people who ambush and steal dreadlocks from “growers”. This is happening in South Africa where the stolen locks are sold to people who don’t want to go through the long years of growing locks.
It has taken me three long years to patiently grow my locks and I must say I am proud about the way I look.
It beggars belief that the police in South Africa can only charge the hair thieves for assault but there is no charge for “hair theft”. The rule books have not written one.
I will be completed appalled and gutted if my dreadlocks were involuntarily shaved because it takes years and patience to grow them.
When I conceived the idea to grow deadlocks, my wife opposed it outright arguing that only “ruffians” wear dreadlocks. My battle to grow dreadlocks started right at home with my wife, but did not end there.
she eventually accepted my “new look” when she saw how neat and tidy and the amount of grooming needed to grow locks. I know a couple of people who tried to grow locks and abandoned the mission halfway because of the difficulties of getting to the end.
The fact that I still have my locks today is great. I love them more than my…(don’t want to head for the divorce court if I finish this sentence!)
As far as I am concerned, growing locks has not been difficult; getting people to understand why someone wants to grow locks has been more challenging. There is still a lot of stigma and misconception attached to dreadlocks. A lot of people think anyone wearing locks is dirty, is a Rastafarian and loves reggae music. I am not a Rastafarian, I like reggae but not so much and I am definitely not dirty or an unruly rascal.
I must admit the fact that “hair thieves” going the extra mile to steal locks to sell to feed a rapidly growing market is an indication of its’ rising popularity.
I used to read about people who were denied jobs or could not get married because they had dreadlocks. Those days are gradually dying out now.
“What is that on your head” a man I have never seen before asked me on beach in Kribi, (some 200 Km from the capital Yaounde) – a popular holiday resort in Southern Cameroon. “It is dreadlocks”, I retorted with a straight face.
He then asked how I managed to “plant” that on my head. All attempts to convince him that I did nothing apart from washing my hair daily, applying an assortment of oils to it and not using a comb in three years, ended in my rasta hair do. He thought I probably was mad. I just walked away.
I have been stopped countless times by two categories of people; the first being those who find it sexy and the others who think dreadlocks are disgusting. While others use dreadlock to express their deep religious or spiritual convictions, others use it as a fashion statement.
I grow dreads because I am who I am; a true son of African. Dreadlocks are my signature, my way of telling the world who I really am. Love it or hate it, my dreadlocks are mine, I am responsible for them and I hate anyone who will think of stealing them off me.
Dreadlocks have a strange history. We first learn about them in ancient Egyptian history where they appeared on Egyptian artifacts.
Interestingly, the Old Testament also narrates the tale of Samson and Delilah in which a man’s potency is directly linked to “the seven locks on his head”.
In effect, modern day dreadlocks or Rasta has its origins from Ras Tafari, the real name of Haile Selassie Haile I, Emperor of Ethiopia from 1930-1974. When the emperor was forced into exile during following an invasion by Italy, his supporters swore never to cut their hair until the emperor was re-instated.
Jamaican reggae superstar Bob Marley must be the most famous dreadlocked musician on earth and he helped popularize Rastafarianism. Dreadlocked hair is the defining look of all Rastafarians.
With his dreadlocks, Bob Marley helped revive an international interest in the style, and the anti western philosophy of Rastafarian culture.
So to all those dread thieves out there, you need more than a knife and broken glasses to get my dreadlocks. I will go down fighting to keep my hair.