Discussing topical issues for women in cross-cultural and inter-continental relationships

Dreadlocks – to have or not to have?

Over the years I have come across people of many different backgrounds who aspire to have perfect dreadlocks, or messy ones as the reality may be. As a zippy growing up in my teenage years and early twenties to a woman living between West Africa and Australia, married to a Rastafarian and with lots of creative friends I have come across many different ways of creating and keeping dreadlocks and many different successes and failures. However, my experience has been that it is truly only African hair that can create masterful dreadlocks.

My husbands are beautifully, painstakingly maintained and chemical-free so they have set my precedent. This means that when he’s attempted to encourage our kids to have dreadlocks they have a good start, but at the moment they are too young to do it themselves. I refuse to spend hours keeping them and we are both very busy so they have both gone through various bird’s-nests and stages of mattedness before he’s given in. For our daughter this was when, thankfully, she was three: My daughter has a mess of hair that has been growing since birth and when dry it sticks 10 to 12 centimetres in the air; when wet it reaches down the middle of her back. Finally at the age of six she is washing her own hair and giving it a little brush which saves me about two hours each week.

For my son it was last weekend. Yes, my constant requests (once a week or fortnight isn’t too much) to my husband to please shave our eight-year-old boys head finally, after five months, was heard. Five months of him growing a head of compact fluff. Although I suspect it’s only to grow it from scratch and teach him to care for his hair like his father – I heard a rumour. *eeeek!

We have one friend who has had his locks growing for twenty-two years and they are to his feet. I have a Kenyan friend who has the tiniest, neatest dreadlocks from her scalp to the base of her spine – all her own hair, which is very impressive – they are about fourteen years in the making now. Another friend got tricked by his brother into shaving his locks for a job, after sixteen years. These were the most thick and beautiful ones of all and now they are no more. That was a very sad day for my husband.

All this got me thinking about where dreadlocks come from and why people do it. What prior knowledge that I have is truthful, as opposed to rumour and what can I learn? I know that my own straight, flowing brown hair will never cut it but I can at least look into it for my children.

My idea of not cool dreadlocks . I mean it’s long and all, but not my style.

Cool Dreadlocks

Messy, nice size, but always has that unkempt look

Very neat and nice-o

Dreadlocks aren’t created by just leaving your hair. They must be maintained and cared for on a very regular basis. Your hair grows from your scalp and so the dreadlocks, once growing, must be cared for at the scalp and remoulded constantly to ensure even growth and thickness. If not your head will become a massand tangle, with hair at one end and separate dreads at the other. You don’t have to use chemicals to maintain them. Simply by using a crochet hook or by sewing with thread, although some disagree with this, you can keep them together. You do have to wash your hair though. Otherwise… ewww!

It’s best to start with short hair and maintain regularly if you want them to be really uniform and neat. If you begin with long hair you may get tired of creating them and lose the will to continue. My advice is to get someone knowledgable to help begin them. The best start you can have means easier maintainance over time.

Whether it be for religious reasons or because it’s acceptable in your sub-culture I suggest, no matter what, that you treat your dreadlocks like an extension of yourself. That way they do become such a meaningful part of who you are and will help to define your character in a good way.

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Here are two links to promote two men with wonderful dreads – see them in the feature photo. The first is my lovely husband, Ras DUAH and one of his new songs from his third album. The second is one of many YouTube clips of our friend, Afro Moses, also a famous Ghanaian musician and one who has been around for many decades, with more to come.

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