It’s the Locs You Dread

Balpolam Idi
5 min readOct 14, 2021
Photo by Humphrey Muleba on Unsplash

Hair is a very fundamental carrier of culture.

A lot of times, we make it seem like addressing hair and how our world today perceives African hair is some form of wokeness. Yo! It shouldn’t be. Humans, through time and space, have always loved to distinguish between their groups and societies with dressing, food, language and arts carrying as much power as any other medium. You might wonder why are we talking about hairstyle today nitori Olorun?

I can’t begin to describe my utter lack of understanding and perplexity with the hairstyle we call dreadlocks. First of all, who named it such a silly name? Dreadlocks. Like a curse word, or an identifier of cursed beings. I wonder what would have happened if we had stuck with our dada and other tribal names. If we had acknowledged and insisted that it is as much a part of us as chukwu, thread, the cornrows. Shey, we would not be here, where people are being denied jobs and educational opportunities because of their hairstyle. Hairstyles that have been with us long before Mongo Park and crew ‘discovered' river Niger. Recently, someone saw my hair and she snottily said “dreadlocks?” in a tone that was more accusation than a question. Thank God for facemasks, my expression was hidden. I replied unenthusiastically “mhmm” and all she said was “che, you like life. You this one.” I was and still am confused by that backhanded compliment/judgement. Please what is the correlation?

Photo by Dorrell Tibbs on Unsplash

I know you want to start warning me to mind myself. Or ginger me to speak on. Don’t get me wrong, there is no denying that the entertainment industry and mainstream media has helped shape our views of these things. When you see the locs, you think of Marley and weed and everything scandalous. When you see a male with dada, and perhaps the next thought that fleets unrestrained is to tag him an omo wobe/dan iska(child of the world, one belonging to the streets). And it is not untrue that these have been signature looks of these people in society with questionable character, the ones looked upon as improper. But balance me this, history tells us that this hairstyle was here long before the rise of the Rastafari. In ancient Egypt, Greece and Crete. So what really is it about uncombed hair that makes you uncomfortable? Yeah, ask yourself. As mentioned earlier, hair carries culture and the culture of these locs vary just as the locations do. The Ethiopians have a different understanding of it from the Maasai tribes found in Kenya and Tanzania, and the Yorubas in Nigeria have an entirely different outlook from the Jamaicans. But one thing is common for all, the cooperate world and ‘propriety’ frown on it all over the world.

Photo by Malcolm Lightbody on Unsplash

On all the continents, locs have been attributed to one form of spiritual or political movement or the other. Some say they are representing the Nazarene race, others the Rastafari (a descendant of Solomon and Sheba of Ethiopia), Others, a revolutionary like Marley. But for some, it is just a convenient hairstyle or an economic decision. Whatever your outlook is on this hairstyle, I want you to know that it is not okay for people, especially black people to be denied opportunities because of the way they keep their hair, by black people like themselves. It is simply ridiculous. Our world today has given artisans and creatives a huge platform and their expression has been loud even to the choice of their appearances. Yet I recount the words of the wise man, there is nothing new under the sun. So while you are having a seizure because a woman wears her hair on a very low cut, or a man grows his beards like my friend, or his locs like a rendition of medusa, remember that these things were here long ago. Men wore jewellery. My Judeo-Christian background has pointed me to see that men and women were heavily adorned with jewellery in the past. Earrings, necklaces, nose rings, anklets, bracelets, rings and the entire package. So this might be about hair, but it is more than that. It is about us learning to not look down on what was our way of life because our colonialists were unfamiliar with our mop-like nappy hair and its refusal to be prim and proper. Who were put off by so many things we loved and celebrated, and taught us to hate those things. We have passed down our acquired disdain faithfully, from generation to generation.

Photo by Eye for Ebony on Unsplash

I grew up seeing different things. My grandmother and a nose-ring I hope to recreate soon, my aunties and waist beads, the Yoruba boy in Red house with dreadlocks. The one people shunned or stared at like he had some sort of infectious evil spirit. That was the first time my curiosity led me to discover the rites of cutting off dada in the Yoruba culture. Last year, a friend had a wedding to cover and he was sent out of the church auditorium because the pastor said, and I quote “I won’t have this type of hair in my church.” I am all for respecting boundaries and regulations, so I sat with him the outcaste. We joked about it but I was very displeased. I made sure I did my best to get the higher-ups informed about the way he was treated, and some semblance of order was reinstituted. I have thought and thought “it’s just hair”. Why hate it so? I have been wondering. When will it stop?

If you have read this far, you must know that this is a long conversation and this is where you join in. What can we do about such prejudices and what is your take on the dressing choices of people? Please don’t air me. Drop a response. I look forward to hearing from you.

Till then,

Yours in undreaded locs, Ballie💖



Balpolam Idi

Live, Love, Give. But most importantly, Dream. Learner. Teacher. Wanderer.