By Aliza Jebet:
“And because there is no beauty without pain, the Nairobi woman who opts to have her hair done in dreadlocks will also experience hair problems, just like those of us with natural hair do.” An excerpt from an article that left me wondering, “What’s so unnatural about locs?”
Nkatha Muthaura started her locs journey back in campus. She had tried the relaxed hair route that left her hair brittle and thin. A year later, she decided it was time for a change. She dearly missed her combed out kinky, natural hair. That was the end of the line for her and the straight hair fad. To avoid the many trips to the salon to have her hair relaxed, she resorted to braiding.
Nkatha figured locs would save her a lot of pain from the use of artificial products that her scalp was sensitive to. “And so one day I just walked into a Salon and chopped off most of it, locking the little natural bit left. I hated combing my hair, it was painful.” She says with a laugh and adds, “Come to think about it, Natural African hair isn’t meant to be combed out. Just let it be.”
There are many theories to the origin of Locs. The most popular of these credits Egypt as the birthplace of locs. History backs this up with archaeological evidence of people wearing locs- mummies have been recovered with their locs still intact. Another account according to the Hindu Vedic scriptures dating from around 1700BC states that the god Shiva wore them.
We also have the Rastafarians, a sect indigenous to Jamaica, with theological foundations that were influenced by the Judaic Old Testament scripture; “All the days of the vow of his separation there shall no razor come upon his head: until the days be fulfilled, in the which he separates himself to the LORD, he shall be holy, and shall let the locs of the hair of his head grow.” Numbers 6:5.
Locs symbolise the mane of the Lion of Judah, and their resistance to a world afflicted by materialism, oppression and capitalism. It is important to note that not all Rastafarians have locs. As goes the song by Morgan heritage “Don’t haffi dread”, which points out that one doesn’t have to wear locs to be considered a Rastafarian.
As wearing locs later became a notable fashion statement in the 1970s with Bob Marley bringing the style into the mainstream, many people began to adopt it as a fashion and style statement.
A lot has been said about this hairstyle. Many believing that people with locs don’t wash their hair and that hair must be dirty in order for it to lock. It has also been said that locs damage the scalp and can lead to thinning. Furthermore, some think not combing is the only way to have nice locs and that hair grows slower in locs.
Contrary to these beliefs, if cared for well, locs are a very healthy hairstyle because the residue free soaps used in washing them actually makes hair grow faster and thicker.