It’s something I have always wanted – right when I was a teenager. Growing up in Cameroon though certain things automatically catapult you into a bad boy group. Tattoos and dreadlocks were high up there and anyone who wore one would feel the piecing eyes of judgement and dissent.
I’d never be in a corporate job back home wearing dreads- we have to comply to European beauty standards. I’m not even going to go into what is expected of girls!
So we’ve ditched what is natural to us to adopt another – yet again.
How bad is it ? There is an armed conflict escalating back home. I spoke to my mom and told her I was going to come home for a short visit and she pleaded with me not to- her exact words were “if you come with your hair like that you will be shot!” Now changing the narrative is something I have always strived to do. Not just for myself, but for others like me. I used to be upset when I got stopped and profiled at airports. But I actually now look forward to it – because the more I’m stopped and found to be nothing more than a traveler, (hopefully) the less the profiling and stereotyping of others.
I’ve been in situations where people confidently come up to me to as for contraband and sometimes express some shock when I tell them I have nothing to offer to them – but a hug 🤗 It’s sad but that’s the world we live in.
Wearing my dreads every day is a message for myself and for others like me, to those who don’t see us as we are. We are normal, regular hair loving people and love to have it worn this way.
So it took a while for me to finally get on board with growing my dreads. There were some external factors.
One prominent amongst them was a story I read about girls in South Africa being sent home from school in order to go straighten or cut their hair! Read that again!
Their parents had to come and protest at the school for days and eventually the story caught media attention worldwide.
I told myself this was one fight I would want to be in, not to throw punches but because representation matters, the more we are, the more it becomes normal.
Though in defiance, I also will not allow myself to be judged.
Historically men have also worn long hair. You look at most indigenous tribes and the males wore long hair and most of them naturally rolled up into dreadlocks. Crazy that we travel around the world to go see and experience the simple and rich lives of these people and sometimes wish it were like that today. The native Americans in the east, the Masai in East Africa, the Samurais in the Far East, the Maoris and Samoans, the list goes on and on.
But more than the looks of them from the outside, there was and is a distinct way in which these people carried themselves, you can feel the energy around them and see it in their eyes, people of high caliber and values.
It’s some of the things I am trying to incorporate into my own life daily. It is helping me build better habits and values.
“It’s (not) just hair” as some have said. But it’s a starting point or continuation of an ascension to an improved version of myself
This was the third and final reason I was growing the dreads. Having been for the most part in a comfortable place things were starting to shake up in my life. Difficult moments were clearly mapped out ahead of me and I had to be able to approach these with some sort of navigation.
Nothing wakes you up more than the certainty of an imminent and confirmed doom. Giving up was not the answer so I had to prepare myself in every way possible to face this.
One of these was working on the inside job – the spirit. It took a few trips to mountains and ceremonies in which I did nothing but listen to myself, identify my strengths and weakness and look for areas of improvement.
I was advised to have something physical to look at to remind me of the work I was doing, to keep myself grounded. You know, like the guys in the movie Inception, in which they had totems to let them know if they were in a dream or not. Then someone asked me what’s up with my hair and out of nowhere I replied “as my hair grows, so does my spirit”.
And that was it, my hair was going to be my totem through this journey a reminder as to the person I was molding myself to be through the tough times to become a me that I am pleased with every day.
Locked in these hair fibres are my stories, a record of my energies and emotions. I can tap into them whenever I feel the need to.
Moreover, it is a hairstyle made for my hair.
An extension of character and to the soul, a filter to the type of people I would like to meet( using the bias to my advantage). The people who take the time to get to know you despite the “outlandish” hairstyle.
People who are strong, self-assured with a good sense of who they are. This is just one of the may good qualities people with dreadlocks have which I love.
And then there is the defiance of western standards to beauty, a racial or cultural connection, an expression of freedom, sometimes a fashion statement or simply a way to express individuality.
And yeah, it’s also cool