Journey to Dreads

Dreads!

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

Transformation.

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

We are Tourists in each other’s live’s!

People come into our lives daily. People leave daily. We hold on to some, we let go of some. Sometimes we do not even notice people came and left. Sometimes we do not notice we’ve been in and out or still in other’s lives. It’s like the people in the background of pictures we take who do not know they have become part of an immortalized digital moment. But for those that we do notice, what do we do about them? How do we treat them? How do we come in? How do we leave? How do we make them feel? The answers to these questions are the fundamentals of the most basic human interactions.

Some of you/us are the cathedrals we long to step into and be left in awe at the design and level of detail and precision that went into building them up. But then we look deeper, below the floor of this marvelous building and there’s the crypt, the sarcophagus of the dead. The things we have buried, some ashamed to go back to, some excited to visit again and again. For they represent a story of growth, of strife, of pain when times may have been very different yet simpler. But it’s led us here, and others too, so we can tell our story.

We let you come in and leave as you please, but we make sure we’ve left a long standing impression on your senses.

Some of us are the landscapes, the mountains, the forests, the rivers and oceans. Too big to be understood, too rough to be controlled. We stand there in awe and we will always invite you in, there’s room for everyone. What we offer you is a place of peace and calm, a place to let your thoughts run, a place to dump all your baggage, we’ve been collecting them for billions of years, what’s a few more? We give you the space to figure yourself out, to pump out the stress, a place to run, to camp, an escape from your busy lives. To see new things, experience nature in all it’s colors and for you to realize you too are part of it. But we have a breaking point too, one which even us do not know when it’s around the corner. We explode sometimes, in a terrible and ghastly accident, we move, we bleed lava, we cry tornadoes, we detroy and we renew the process and we start all over again. We are inseprable and we will be here when you need us.

Some of us are the transports. We take you from one place to the next. We spice things up. We introduce other people to you. Some as challenges, some as lovers, some as companions for the duration of the trip, some just for that brief moments. We show you places but only briefly, because we are only meant to get you to a particular spot. Once there we bid you farewell, the rest of the journey is yours to complete. We’ve played our part. If you are ready to walk this path again, you definitely can come back.

Then there’s some of us who are there today and when you return we’ve moved on to someplace else – like art. We take ourselves wherever we are appreciated the most. We will stay as long as we feel needed or wanted, but will pack up and go when it’s time for us to.

Our lives revolve around people. How we treat them really does matter. We really are tourists in each other’s lives. Let us treat each other with love and respect, and then maybe we can collectively change the world.

WAKANDA FOREVER: CAPTURING THE GLORY OF MAMA AFRICA!

BY SPENCER NJOYA

EDITED BY KENNETH FOMUNUNG

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So we are just a few days away from one of the most anticipated movies of all time–at least for most black folks. I don’t think there’s ever been so much hype around a film in my time that resonated very deeply with the African community. Maybe not since Chaka Zulu. I was just a kid then, and yet I still remember when my dad brought home the VHS tape; it was a family screening day, and we were not disappointed. So here we are again with another banger–a black superhero. Scratch that–a family of black superheroes from an incredibly wealthy nation in Africa fighting other black superheroes or supervillains if you will. Read that again!

While most of the movie was shot abroad with an almost all-black cast, it nevertheless tells the story of a wealthy nation (as most African countries are), which managed to own and control its own resources (as most African countries should), with internal power struggles (as most countries in the world do). However, besides the exalted action, the movie has borrowed several cultural aspects from across the continent, some of which I would like to highlight. This article is an effort for non-native audiences to understand why distinct visual features in the movie are the way they are. As an aside, the fact that I am promoting the African elements herein doesn’t mean that I am against their Western counterparts. I merely feel it is imperative to understand and respect the African cultures the latter has borrowed from for generations. I also urge you to read with an open mind and refrain from judging the culture from just your cultural standpoint.

The fictional African nation of Wakanda is a country rich in resources, one in particular called vibranium, upon which its citizens built the realm itself. This notion is pure speculation as I have not seen the movie yet nor have I read the comics, but I assume this is how they leveraged this unique, scarce resource. Today, in the real Africa, some of the rarest and most precious metals lie in abundance throughout the continent, but ironically, many citizens of the nations that contain these gems are living below the poverty line. There are countless debates on how this could be improved, but I digress. The richness of the continent cannot be measured, but if you take a moment and explore or do some research, you’ll notice a few things. Your phones and laptop work efficiently because of a particular rare metal called tantalum, mined in the Congo. Moreover, bananas, timber, cocoa, coffee, and many similar raw materials and natural resources all come from this beautiful but often inaccurately depicted continent. Now, let’s dive into my cultural highlights from the sure to be blockbuster flick:

Face Paint

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Considered primitive in the Western world, for most tribes in Africa, this is an indication of beauty and also a status that conveys a strong cultural message. In some tribes, the men elegantly wear face paint to attract their female counterparts. It is slowly disappearing in the regions that are becoming more ‘modern’ but can always be spotted worn at cultural celebrations and by families or people with a distinguished lineage to protect.

Scarification–as seen on Erik Killmonger.

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Another rarely seen feature, this practice is a core part of African history and tradition. Depending on the pattern or location of the scars on the body, you could easily deduce from which tribe the bearer hails. Sometimes, the scar bearer viewed his marks as a rite of passage, and proudly so. In some West African countries, it was considered an indication of one’s life stage, such as adulthood/puberty, and marriage. You could also identify what social class a person belonged to by their scars. Sometimes, the bearer acquired these marks as a treatment to a particular type of sickness, wherein the traditional doctor or “medicine man” scarred the skin and placed the remedy just underneath the surface.

Spirituality and Ancestry.

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Ancestry is one of the most notable aspects of the many diverse cultures across Africa. Why is this spiritual? Well, because in African culture, there is ultimate respect for the people who came before you, your elders; more so, those who have passed away ahead of you. Till this day, people often speak of their grandparents and great-grandparents as though they were gods; their names are considered holy, and their descendants take much consideration before naming a child after them. People also made pacts in their names, and some people were cursed in their names as well. Their names carried power and near-deity status. In certain places, if your father placed you at the edge of a cliff and asked you to jump, the only question you could ask in response was, “How high?” While this might seem harsh, it is not; it is considered an exercise in building strength and trust in the leader preceding you, a leader you would become someday. In such a culture, you inherit what your elders created, and you build upon it, protect it, and ensure that it is respected, just like young T’Challa inheriting the kingdom from his father, T’Chaka, in Black Panther.

Spirituality and Masks–as worn by Erik Killmonger.

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Here is another rich, vibrant, and a diverse cultural feature that is also–unfortunately I might add–often associated with primitiveness. On the contrary, in Africa, it is associated with spirituality. The person who wears the mask loses their human identity and transcends into the spirit represented by that mask–commonly known as juju back in my place of birth. They become superhuman, not bound by the natural laws of the human dimension. Some of these jujus rarely surface in public view and, when they do, something remarkable is unmistakably up. You can say both the Black Panther and Erik Killmonger transcend into a different realm or higher plane of being by wearing their respective masks. They become superhuman, fittingly.

Architecture.

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While the most common representation of Africa by the Western media is one of safaris and huts in the wild, Africa possesses some of the oldest structures on earth, built long before the Colonial Era. For example, there are pyramids in Sudan we never see pictures of, Stone Town in Zimbabwe, which is now a world heritage site, the Nubian pyramids, just to name a few. Believe it or not, I could go ahead and write more, but I felt that these represent the few most famous African cultural traditions I could bring to your attention from watching the trailer. I imagine the full-length movie will reveal a host of other such intriguing cultural elements worthy of a follow-up article. At any rate, I hope you found this write-up useful and join us in celebrating this glorious work of art that is soon to unleash the glory of African lore and heritage all across the big screens nationwide and take Hollywood by storm. In conclusion, I have just one more thing to say, “WAKANDA FOREVER!

The corporate and urban hippie!

“Urban hippie” and “corporate hippie” are just some of the few tags I have been given over the last couple of years. I don’t mind them, I mind that I am reaching out to people in any way possible. People who know me now assume I just got into this way of life. I’ve been on it for half my life! I was introduced into metaphysics when I was barely a teenager to help me cope with issues I had growing up. It hasn’t been a steady course, it hasn’t been easy and I still have a long way to go. It was way difficult when I was younger as I grew up in an environment where Christianity was strongly observed and anything else was heavily frowned upon and you were subject to all sorts of misinterpretation, name calling and shunning. So it pretty much was a very very tight circle without a lot of freedom to speak or express your true thoughts on certain things. But that didn’t deter me from seeking what I consider my truth and my center. Some of my friends say I’m woke, enlightened and lucky and I just laugh. I laugh because I think of myself as a joke and the thought that I am here to save someone else just cracks me up as I haven’t even figured out a way to save myself if I needed saving from. A few sometimes reach out to say thanks and I’m glad I left a positive impact in their lives no matter how small. I don’t know it all, I don’t know much, what I do know is that the enlightened one is the person who pushes his boundaries of knowledge and always eager and willing to learn new things, ways of life and really just to listen to others to get their perspectives. That’s why I love exploring the world, I get to see the world as it really is and not as it is described. There is a huge difference. I’m working on giving back as well in any way I can, I share whatever knowledge I feel I have acquired to whoever is ready to listen and in the process I learn from them too about their mindset and why they see things the way they do not forcing anything on them. A while ago there were things I was certain I knew and oh my how that has changed, that’s the progress I’m making. I am psycho, I am calm, I am wild I am Free, I am chained, I am every emotion there is to feel and experience…

I am you, you are me, we are all in this together and non the wiser. I cannot separate myself from you just like the sun can’t separate itself from the earth and the planets around it, and the galaxies around it and everything that exists, we are the cosmos we are all from it and in it. When this is understood we will all then collectively evolve as our consciousness grows and we will genuinely feel and care for each other and heal and it doesn’t matter if you are a hippie or not it just matters that you are in touch with your consciousness.

2017 – you’ve been magical!

2017! What year you have been, I can’t even write about it constructively because the information download was just too immense and I am still struggling to process it all. It was an awesome year and one which lasted 12 months but I lived through it like it had been 5 years. It was by no means slow, it was very fast, but the amount of things I had to learn in this short time would have otherwise taken about 5 years for me to finally get them. It was another year filled with travel, a one which most of the destinations didn’t matter but the journey to them was key. Like when I was heading to the Everest base camp, reaching there became more and more unimportant as I got closer to reaching it. What was key was me enjoying every other moment on the trek there, meeting awesome people and observing everything around me and taking it all in. A year where I got to process a lot of emotions I had kept in me for so many years, a year during which I purged myself and became this version of myself. It wasn’t easy, removing certain habits or “truths” instilled by me/family/friends/environment was very difficult. I was clinging to many things thinking they were important for me and they only stalled my growth, I managed to get rid of some of them and still working on others. It’s been a year of too much information download, it scares me when I think of all of what I have learnt. A year what I learnt what it really means to be there for another person, a year where I was yet again shown unconditional love and support from the people near and far away from me. A year where my consciousness was dialled up by 10000%!! Life has not been the same since then. It changed me, in a good way. A year in which I think I finally got to understand what my purpose as a human here on earth is and how to go about it. A year where protecting my energy became a primary priority. A year where I learnt not to be a people pleaser but to focus on myself first. A year where I learnt how important it is to keep your word. A year where I learnt to see things just as the way they are and not complicate them further. A year of warmth, love and acceptance, a year of abundance. I also learnt again what gratitude is and how to practice it again, a year where my soul journeyed into other planes and showed me what passion is, what love is, what life is, what purpose is, what friendship means, what support means, what empathy means, what compassion means. A year where many existential questions were answered. A year I learnt not to resist life, to just be, to acknowledge my feelings, to really live! I get goosebumps reminiscing all of these things but I know I haven’t figured anything out yet- it was just the beginning. So thanks 2017 for the accelerated growth and all the lessons, you’ve been really good to me and I truly appreciate that. Now on to 2018 to continue the magic!
Happy new year!