MISCONCEPTION OF DREADLOCKS IN NIGERIA.
Growing up in a ghetto area of Aba, our parents taught us that owls are a dangerous animal. They said that once an owl hoots at night, a soul would be lost. Therefore, we dreaded owls and their hoots because our parents and elders in the community told us that their cries could kill people.
Each time we heard the bird hoots at night we would become afraid. Afraid that someone might just die. Afraid that one of us might just suffocate and give up the ghost. Sometimes, when our parents were not around, we looked for where to hide ourselves to keep our ears away from hearing those owls hoot. It was the mindset we grew up with that owls kill with their hoots.
We had death on our mind whenever owls hooted in our backyard. This actually made us afraid of owls and whenever we heard the sound that has to do with them, we looked for them or waited to hear the sound of people crying or screaming of someone who must have died after any owl left our compound but then, relatively, we don’t always hear this bad news.
However, as little children we were, we didn’t see reasons to believe that what our parents and elders told us are superstitious or false but we always waited for another day for the bird to come to the trees in our compound to hoot as usual and how we would deal with it.
Back then, when we heard the first cry of an owl, the brave guys among us would always look for heavy stones to chase it away as long as we could locate where it perched on. There were these trees in our backyard, we knew the trees to be their home.
So each time there was an owl hooting, we would go straight to those trees with stones. Some with anointing oil and some of us shouting ‘blood of Jesus’ behind the brave guys. It was what they taught us; our parents.
Sometimes, we didn’t go near those trees rather we prayed, we prayed for our mothers, fathers and sisters and brothers. This went on and on until I was able to read about owls when I started knowing what life was.
And from what I have read about owls, I was able to let go of some certain things we were taught while growing up. This is not to say that our parents or elders lied to us, they must have their reasons or something that happened that warrant that kind of folklores.
Till date, I’m still afraid of pussy cats because we were told that evil men possess them to do bad things. I hated cats when I was younger and even now. Each time we saw a cat in our room; either under our bed or any place, (our neighbour used to have some cats then but we make sure they doesn’t come near our door) we would not sleep in our room again.
Sometimes, we would go to my mother’s friend place to sleep if we eventually see any of them in our room. Our room then had no ceiling, it was only zinc and wood and it was surrounded by trees and bushes. It harboured different kind of reptiles, wall geckos, lizards and I can’t remember how many snakes we’ve killed crawling out of our room but the pussy cat was the most dangerous of them all because mother said they were evil especially the black ones. So, this black cat in our compound had the luxury of time to jump from one corner of the roof to another. Sneaking into rooms without permission.
Sometimes when it came, mother would tell us that she saw our neighbour possessed the cat. She would say the woman was hungry and she had to possess the cat to look for food in other rooms. She would begin to pray and cast and bind the cat but the cat wouldn’t move an inch.
She would get a broom and chase it away. What actually made us believed all these stories was when a man died in our neighbourhood after another man had killed one of his cats. We were told that the dead man came to kill that man in the body of the cat.
So, the other man overcame him and he killed the cat. The next morning, we heard that the man, the owner of the cat, was dead. According to some people, as they were burning the dead cat, the dead man was shaking on his bed where he was laid. We only saw the burning cat but never saw the man turning on his bed.
This black cat in our compound had mastered the act of scaring us or rather getting us out of the room because we were afraid of it. Sometimes it scared the life out of our bodies by hiding in a corner in the darkest part of the room.
Hence, the first thing you would see when you open the door would be the eyes and next, he would jump out of his hiding place towards you. I have this phobia for cats which I know won’t go away until I die.
I have tried several times to shed this skin of fear out from my body to no avail. Systematically, it has become part of me to see those that have cats as a pet as aliens. Perhaps, being scared of them was the only way I could be sane with them. Societal belief.
There are times people see or say things knowingly and unknowingly and these things they’ve said were things they were told and they would harbour it in their hearts for a very long time and this, they will pass down to their children and their children as well will pass them down to their own children and it goes on like this until it becomes a belief or custom to some certain people.
Some say things unknowingly because they’ve heard others said it, without making the necessary research on the subject matter; they carry this rumour just like it was said. They, therefore, pass the rumour from one person to another and, from one generation to another generation this rumour is passed down to many people and this rumour ends up becoming a belief to them.
Meanwhile, this was the same thing I grew up to know and learn about dreadlocks until I began to study them, why people choose to wear dreadlocks as a hairstyle. Then in Aba precisely, we were taught that those on dreadlocks were miscreants and nuisances.
We were taught that those on dreadlocks were Hooligans, mad people, dirty and smelling smokers; and useless fellows to their family. They were known to be wayward people, rascals or rather the black sheep of the family.
We were taught to keep away from them so that they won’t corrupt us. Afterwards, we became afraid of them. we were always far from them. Far from what they do and far from their footsteps. We needed to obey our parents and make them proud as good children.
We needed to put a smile on their faces as good children we are. Naturally, I came to realised that left to its own devices, the hair will naturally knot together and form mats or “dreadlocks”.
Upon seeing dreadlocks, most people think of Bob Marley, Lucky Dube, Reggae, and Rastafarianism, unaware that the roots of dreadlocks go back much further, to at least 2500 BCE with the dreadlocked Vedic deity Shiva and his followers. I don’t see anything wrong with being on dreadlocks. Except if there are things I am not seeing from my end.
There are these sentiments and discriminations associated with dreadlocks in Nigeria. There are many places they can’t enter and there are many places they won’t be able to work because they are on dreadlocks and some societal beliefs kick against dreadlocks hence making those who appear on dreads as aliens to others.
There are some churches you can not climb on their altars even if you are a member of that church because you are on dreadlocks and there are many places you can’t be employed also. Reasons being that people on dreadlocks are seen as rascals, touts, rough, gangsters or temperaments; they are either hoodlums and armed robbers or those that don’t want to be useful to their families.
They are seen as chain smokers, confused being and wayward people. But the truth is that not everyone on dreadlock is wayward. Some actually know what they are doing. Not everyone on dreadlocks is a smoker, gangster, tout or a drunk.
Not everyone on dreadlocks looks dirty and smells. These are the misconceptions the society wants you to believe in, the principles behind every act are seen in the comfortability of that act to its performer.
Fashion is an art, a belief to some extent and must be respected irrespective of who is involved in the act. Have you met anyone on dreadlocks one day and ask him or her why she/ he is on dreadlocks? Have you?
A friend of mine had to cut his dreadlocks because he found a job at one cooperation organization. Afterwards, he was told that the way he looks was still rough and the firm won’t accept someone that looks like that. He had cuts on his face and somewhere on his arms.
Another friend of mine was arrested by SARS one night because he was on dreadlocks. He was taken to the station and several counts were charged on him. He was said to be a thief while he was not carrying a gun. He was said to be a kidnapper while he was not holding anybody he had kidnapped.
He was released later after much torture and torments in the cell. The fact remains that, there is a difference between dreadlocks and robbery. There is a difference between dreadlocks and kidnapping. Honestly, I’ve never read or seen a place dreadlocks was associated with crimes, dreadlocks were never associated with armed robbery, kidnapping, fraudsters, hoodlums, gangsters and other crimes.
It is no longer a free world or a world where everyone chooses to appear the way he thinks is safer or comfortable to him or her. We have more mouths wagging and more fingers pointing closer to judgement.
Meanwhile, in Nigeria today, everyone on dreadlocks is seen as a “Yahoo Boy”; a fraudulent individual and he is a prey to SARS (Special Anti-Robbery Squads) and the Nigerian police. He is not to walk without a hood on his head covering his dread during the day.
He is not to walk in broad daylight without his identity card as a means of identification. He can be shot at any time, he can be harassed at any time, and he can be embarrassed at any time as long as he is on dreadlocks. It doesn’t matter the kind of work he does or how he makes his living; he is a “Yahoo Boy” and he must be rid off the society to make the society free from fraud.
There are these misconceptions of dreadlocks by some people which I thrive to correct. They are:
1. PEOPLE ON DREADLOCKS ARE YAHOO BOYS
2. PEOPLE ON DREADLOCKS ARE HOOLIGANS AND MISCREANTS.
3. PEOPLE ON DREADLOCKS ARE CHAIN SMOKERS
4. PEOPLE ON DREADLOCKS ARE DIRTY AND SMELLING PEOPLE
5. MOST PEOPLE ON DREADLOCKS ARE NUISANCE AND WAYWARD
But these are not really true about dreadlocks. People often think there are only one or two ways to professionalism, one of which is to have a straight hair or looking like everyone else in that profession but your career makes you professional and your work ethic.
Dreads are a fashion on its own and those that have it should not be judged based on the hairstyle. Not everyone on dreadlocks is a hooligan, some might be but not all.
© John Chizoba Vincents