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Myths about dreadlocks

Dreadlocks are now generally accepted in Nigeria, as people now pay money to get them. Photo: fashionimages

Dreadlocks, often referred to as “dada” or “locks,” have a long and diverse global history, not limited to Nigeria alone. While they are increasingly embraced as a symbol of cultural identity and personal expression in some countries, in Nigeria, individuals with dreadlocks often stand out and attract attention from others when they are noticed.

What are dreadlocks?

Dreadlocks are a hairstyle in which long strands of hair are tightly coiled and allowed to hang down in free-flowing ropes.

Dreadlocks are associated with Rastafarians, a religious movement that began in Jamaica in the early 1930s, and their influence has spread over time to the rest of the world, including Nigeria.

Popular Jamaican reggae artists such as Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Burning Spear, Ziggy Marley, and Jimmy Cliff, among many other Rastafarians, believed the dreadlocks had a spiritual root.

Nigeria’s perception

In the past, people with dreadlocks often drew attention to themselves, as they were seen as irresponsible, mentally deranged, sick, and lazy, as well as dangerous.

For instance, a Professor in the Department of Anthropology, Texas State University, Augustine Agwuele said in Yorubaland, people with dreadlocks are believed to be either mad, children gotten from mystical powers attached to trees or sea.

Hence, it was rare in the period before the 1960s to see Nigerians with dreadlocks.

There’s a prevailing belief among some individuals that having dreadlocks might hinder their chances of securing career opportunities, as they fear they may be perceived as unprofessional or irresponsible. In certain cases, people with dreadlocks have even faced accusations of criminal behaviour.

For instance, Bamidele Oluwasegun, a resident of Lagos, shared his experience with Radio Nigeria, alleging that he was detained by the police solely due to his appearance.

Growing trend

Nigeria has witnessed significant growth in the number of people with dreadlocks in recent times, despite the ”societal” rejection they have received.

The gradual acceptance of dreadlocks started growing in the early 1970s and 1980s as people particularly musicians started imitating their heroes in other countries particularly Jamaica.

Reggae legends such as Bob Marley and Peter Tosh had great influence on Nigerian musicians such as Majek Fashek, and Ras Kimono who wore dreadlocks throughout their successful music career.

From the 1990s, Nigerian footballers such as Samuel Okwaraji joined in by wearing dreadlocks further increasing its general acceptance.

Late Super Eagles forward Sam Okwaraji. Photo: NFFimages

Aside the influence of the reggae music on dreadlocks in Nigeria, civilisation has also played a major role in general acceptance.

People now see dreadlocks as fashion rather than the ”dirt” stereotyped to it.

A student, Emmanuella Okeiyi told Radio Nigeria that she spent N11,000 to make her dreadlocks.

According to another student, Balikis Amao, some persons pay as much as N60,000 to purchase natural dreadlocks.

Demystifying dreadlocks

Dreadlocks are often a matter of personal style preference and may not necessarily carry religious significance. It’s important to recognise that while some people may incorporate spiritual beliefs into their dreadlock journey, this is not a universal characteristic, as people with locks come from diverse religious and spiritual backgrounds.

Contrary to the misconception associating dreadlocks with poor hygiene, individuals with dreadlocks typically maintain good hair hygiene by regularly washing and caring for their hair, just like those with other hairstyles.

Furthermore, it’s essential to dispel the criminal stereotype unfairly attached to people with dreadlocks. This stereotype lacks a factual basis and does a disservice to the majority of individuals with dreadlocks who are law-abiding citizens.

Although certain workplaces may impose strict dress codes, Nigeria has become increasingly accepting of diverse styles. Many individuals with dreadlocks have successfully pursued various careers, providing encouragement to those who may have concerns that having dreadlocks could hinder their professional prospects and limit career opportunities.

Nigeria has witnessed a growing acceptance and appreciation of dreadlocks as a legitimate and diverse hairstyle choice.

For many, dreadlocks serve as a means to express their unique individuality.

Writing by Oluwaseyi Ajibade; Editing by Saadatu Albashir and Daniel Adejo