Tag Archives: culture

Origins of Dreadlocks: Who Started the Trend?

The idea and appearance of dreadlocks evoke a variety of feelings, including, but not limited to fear, fascination, and the age old stigma attached to it. There is also the weed smoking connotation, some negative pagan symbolism and the Rastafarian movement. Most recently in popular culture, there was the infamous Guillani Ranci comment regarding Zendaya as well as the San Francisco State University incident involving a black student confronting a white student wearing dreadlocks, claiming culture appropriation. So what are dreadlocks and how did we get here?

Bob Marley. Source:www.artcreationforever.com

Dreadlocks are basically thick or light ropes of hair, sometimes matted naturally to form “clumps” of hair, other times guided by twisting bits of hair together until they “lock” and look like, again, thick or light ropes, quite different from strands of regular hair that are combed or brushed regularly. Research shows that dreadlocks date back to 2,500 BC and this hairstyle has been worn by very many ethnicities and religious even if they were not called dreadlocks at the time. According to Dr. Bert Ashe in his book “Twisted: My Dreadlocks Chronicles”, the first recorded evidence of dreadlocks in script is in the present day India’s Vedic scriptures. Therein, the deity Shiva is wearing the style. Ashe argues that the word JaTaa which is used in Vedic scriptures means “twisted lock of hair”. Shiva’s followers thus began to wear JaTaa and it spread to other Indian Sages and Yogis. These holymen wore JaTaa and shunned all worldly possessions to the extent that they did not regard their appearance or the maintenance of hair as a priority. As a result, their hair matted naturally and formed dreadlocks.

In addition to Vedic scripture, there is archeological proof that ancient Egyptians also wore dreadlocks. This is evidenced by mummies which have been recovered with their dreadlocks in tact and untouched.  The style is also linked to indentured workers of East Indian origin who were sent to work on sugar plantations in British and French colonies in the Caribbean after the abolition of slavery. Louise Hardwick in the piece “Creolizing the Caribbean Coolie” explains that from 1838 to 1917, over half a million Indians were taken to 13 mainland and Island Caribbean nations as indentured workers to address the demand for labour on sugar can plantations. Some of these indentured workers may have worn dreadlocks as a part and parcel of their culture and spirituality and this may have accounted for the introduction of the hairstyle into the Caribbean.

Accounts have it that in the beginning of the Industrial revolution in the 1930s, the Rastafarian movement began among the black Jamaican population. Rastafarian movement is said to be founded on the teachings of Marcus Garvey who founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association in 1914 and insisted that all black people should return to the motherland. He encouraged Jamaicans to look towards the African continent to find themselves and be liberated. Although he never practised Rastafarian, he is believed to be one of the prophets of the movement. Garvey spoke of a King who would spring up from the African continent and liberate black people. Thus when the self proclaimed King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Lion of the Tribe of Judah Ras Tafari (Haile Selassi I) became Emperor of Ethiopia, Rastafarians named the movement after him and believed this was indeed a fulfilment of Garvey’s prophecy and prophecies in the Bible. They revered Haile Selassi I as the son of God.

The Rastafarians called themselves dreads, to signify their dread and utmost respect for God, whom they refer to as Jah. God is referenced as Jahweh and Jehovah in some parts of the Old Testament of the Bible. Thus the hairstyle became known as dreadlocks. This movement and the hairstyle garnered tremendous international attention with the explosion of award winning musician Bob Marley on the world stage. Marley was a pro-marijuana Rastafarian as were many members in the movement, believing that marijuana facilitated clear thinking. It is important to note that some Rastafarian sects are purists who believe that any mind altering substance is impure and must not be used or ingested.

There is a second school of thought regarding the root of the Rastafarian movement; said to be an Abrahamic belief founded on three sources; the Old Testament, African cultures and Hindu culture. One thing both accounts agree on is that it is named after the Ethiopian Emperor Ras Tafari (Haile Selassie I) who Rastas believe is God based on the second coming recorded in the Bible. Ashe argues that the followers of the movement tried to model their attitudes and appearance including hairstyle, after the Hindu Holymen who were settled among them as a result of the indentured labour movement of the British Government, and thus began to wear their hair in matted styles, although there may not be an agreement to this among researchers.

Following the popularity of Marley, dreadlocks have become increasingly popular in mainstream particularly among hippies, vegans, New Age thinkers and within the music, art and literary scenes. In researching this piece, it is evident that almost every culture has worn dreadlocks at some point or the other. In some African cultures, wearers of dreadlocks are known as Dada and traditionally wear their hair in locks as a mark of belonging to the goddess or god of the land. Children who are marked as Dada can only have their hair cut when they reach a certain age, with the approval of the chief priest alongside some rites and rituals.

There are accounts that Celts wore their hair like snakes. One is reminded of Medusa in Greek mythology “with snakes for hair”. The Germanic tribes and Vikings were known to wear their hair in twisted locks. Dreadlocks have also been worn by the Monks of Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo church, the Maori tribe of New Zealand, the Dervishes of Islam, and many early Nazarites, most notably Samson in the Bible where seven locks of hair were said to have given him extraordinary strength until Delilah chopped them off. In many cultures, the religious priests wore dreadlocks because energy and one’s Chi is present in their hair and wearing it in large knots or not cutting it essentially keeps the energy in and keeps one in touch with his or her Chi.

Many people nowadays wear dreadlocks for different reasons; because they like the style, because it is unique, because its natural form gives hair the capacity to grow and thrive. Some are based on spiritual purposes around the Rasta movement, one’s Chi or even religion. I grew my dreadlocks because they are natural and I was tired of putting chemicals in my hair. But more than anything else, because I like the style and the look. Why do you have dreadlocks? Why do you think people have dreadlocks? Is there another group in history that wore their hair in twisted locks besides the cultures and religions articulated?

Why Do Married Men Cheat On Their Wives? (Part 1)

Before I start, I must apologise in advance for what may change from a benign post, to a rant about moral obligations, double standards, and equal rights. This title speaks to my initial idea for the blog post, I have now written about so much more.

Today I decided to blog about an “epidemic” which seems on the increase in Naija. Have you noticed how it is now quite common place for men to cheat on their wives? If you go into the clubs or just regular fish and drinks gardens in the evening, you see scores of older rather unfit (although sometimes youngish) men wearing wedding bands, hanging around with younger women and the body language tells you that this is no family or blood connection. They don’t even hide it anymore. A good friend of mine spent Valentine’s day with her girlfriends (they are all single) at an entertainment centre, and apparently, one girl came up to them sobbing uncontrollably. Her boyfriend stood her up, they were supposed to spend valentine’s day together. Obviously this was a “side chick” who had been played. In the course of consoling her, this man’s photo came up and he seemed to be in his late 30s.

Source:sodahead.com
Source:sodahead.com

“Is he married”? My friend asked her

“Yes, he is. But his family is in Calabar”, She said

The girls just looked at each other, and bade her farewell and godspeed. Here was a side chick who knew she was with a married man, and felt entitled. She also felt it was ok because his family lived in another city. In other words, she was the non-Calabar wife. What exactly did she expect? I wonder if she expected anything different when she got married herself.

I have spoken to many men about this issue of cheating on their wives, and the answer has always been the same; men are polygamous, you do not get married planning to cheat, it just happens, the temptations out there are too strong, the wives are not supportive and are too materialistic, they need an outlet, etc. I often ask them if their wives know, and the answer is always the same; there have been close shavings, but the women always let sleeping dogs lie. I ask them if they know that it is wrong, unjustified and smacks of a lack of integrity, disrespect for their partners, and a gross let-down of their children. I ask them how they would feel if their wives did the same, the answers are usually varied, but have the same theme.

Photo source: www.clipartof.com
Photo source: http://www.clipartof.com

“Abeg Anne go and rest, it is a man’s world, men are polygamous na, that’s African culture”

“Ha how can she cheat on me? Women are usually faithful and supposed to look after the family. If my wife cheats on me, she’s gone the minute I find out”

“You know women attach emotions to sex, that’s when your real problem starts. To a man, a side chick means nothing. That’s why it is not good for a woman to cheat, because that means that you have lost her”

“How can you even suggest that? Are you becoming western or what? If a man takes care of his family and has an affair, as long as he takes care of his family, it shouldn’t matter”

“Well my wife is still number one, I don’t joke with her. I make sure she doesn’t lack anything”

“There is a lot of temptation out there, you may not want to cheat on your wife, but these single girls will not allow you to rest”

All these responses left me feeling amused, particularly the second and the last one. Our society is still a very unbalanced one, what is good for the goose, is certainly not good for the gander in Nigeria. Men are quite egocentric and expect submission, it is almost as though women have not come fully formed, and are lesser beings than they are. You think we do not feel exactly what you feel? We do, but do we act on it? No. You think I do not see all those hot men? They are everywhere; in the banks, in the restaurants, in church. Chai. Have you seen those types?

Usher. Source.menshealth.com
Usher. Source.menshealth.com

I follow a lot of them on instagram too o. All they do is close business deals, work out and take photos of their bodies. Their bodies make me want to sing “Imela chineke m ooo”, drop out of postgrad school, and cook for them all day long. In high heels and lingerie of course. They are so hot that I want to cook all the dishes my mother taught me, like ofe onugbu, nsala, ukwa, abacha, coconut rice and pepper soup. I feel like adding a twist to all the dishes; cheese, just because I can grate those blocks on those abs, then take my clothes off very quickly. But do I do that? Mba nu. Do you think I don’t want to have Bible study with that assistant pastor all day, everyday? Look, he has a lot to say about the Lord and he looks good saying it. I must find out what lipbalm he wears and the aftershave. Dear husband, I don’t want chapped lips or “townsend” perfume on you. Pastor Gaf’s lipbalm and aftershave are your possession and keys to the holy land.

I have been told that I am a feminist; no arguments there. Why are we so afraid of that word? Why has it been demonised? According to the Oxford dictionary, It simply means the “economic, social and political equality of all sexes”. I think this is fair, do you regard yourself as superior or less than any other human being? Do you regard yourself or anybody else, regardless of sex, as undeserving of the same opportunities? I think God is a feminist as we are all created in his image and likeness. So are the gods in traditional African religion; think about what you have read and heard about the roles of Ani, Idemili, Yemoja, Oya. Sometimes I worry that the advent of new religions in Nigeria and the subsequent interpretation has stripped us of all fairness and objectivity, with the verse about “submission” consistently quoted halfway and taken out of context.

Woman changing car tyre. Source: www.ispot.tv
Woman changing car tyre.
Source: http://www.ispot.tv

I blame my father for my views hahaha. I was raised to believe in equality and to hold myself and others accountable for mine or their actions, regardless of sex. We were raised (boys and girls alike), to be able to cook, and clean, and carry heavy things up flights of stairs, and change tyres, and be compassionate and empathetic all at once. I was 16 before I realised that it was unusual for a Naija husband to wash his plates after his meal, to wash his clothes by himself, to help his wife out in the kitchen while she’s making dinner, to cobweb, dust family photos, take the thrash out, and also be home at 6pm unless both of them were out together. Forget all those fake late meetings and constant hanging out with the mistresses, missing the vital family time.

My friends were shocked when they spent extended time at the family home and saw this. Ah it was already too late, that was my worldview, that everyone chipped in, that this was a partnership full of love and laughter and accountability and equality.

I took this worldview to the university and I still remember my first serious boyfriend. He was a great looking “corper” from Ilorin. Bros invited me to his flat one day, and this ensued.

“I bought ingredients for bitterleaf soup, come and cook”, he said

To which I responded by staring at him in shock. He carried on.

“If you are worried about staining your clothes, you can wear my boxers and singlet,” he said, while reclining and chilling with a football match on.

When I didn’t budge or take my eyes off the Readers’ Digest which I was reading, he carried on.

“Oh you don’t know how to cook? Ok, come, you can do this one.”

A family that cooks together stays together? Source: www.madamenoire.com
A family that cooks together stays together?
Source: http://www.madamenoire.com

I followed him into the room where there was a mound of dirty clothes including jeans and the like for yours truly to wash. I went into the living room, chuckling to myself. I picked up my handbag, and like Lot, I never looked back, poor guy. Now tell me, who raised this man to have such expectations that a girlfriend was his housekeeper? O gini?

Anyway, enough digression. I have theories around why married men cheat on their wives and why there are such saintly expectations of women. I shall share these soon enough in my next blog post. I leave you with a thought; it is time that women started picking up some of the bills and helping out financially around the house, and ask the men to pull their weight domestically. I wrote a post last year titled “Should Men Pick Up All The Bills”, there, the comments and opinion came to 50-50, some thought a man should look after the finances of his family solely, others felt women should contribute, my theory is that a partnership brings about accountability, open and honest communication, and reduces the chances of infidelity in marriage.

Durex Condom Survey. Source: www.durex.co.uk
Durex Condom Survey.
Source: http://www.durex.co.uk

Unfortunately, it looks like women are now beating men to their game; your wife going to fellowship and bible study three times a week, or going for school run 30 minutes before the time, and attending all those weddings in asoebi, may be enjoying other less ideal activities. This is just something based on a survey for the most unfaithful wives in the world, carried out by Durex, which found Nigerian women to be the most unfaithful wives, emerging in first place out of 35 countries surveyed. It seems we have now overtaken Thai women who were number one in 2012 and last year. Is this true? Could this actually be happening? Why are the tides turning (besides the temptation on offer on instagram :-)?)

Surviving a Sandstorm

Dike ran down the road. His blue plastic sandals beat out a rhythm on the earth, raising orange-brown dust as he fled the thick red cloud rising up and chasing him down the path.

Sandstorm Source: ellecidadventures
Sandstorm
Source: ellecidadventures

Word Count: 33

Written for this week’s Trifextra Writing Challenge:

“… give us a thirty-three word piece that has a color in it. Use the color to describe anything you like, or use anything you like to describe your color, but keep it creative and keep it short.”

Visiting Istanbul Turkey: Sights and Sounds

Nothing prepared my sister and I for the absolute delight that was Istanbul. Granted, we were not too happy at the airport, having flown in at 12 noon local time, and tossed up and down a very lengthy airport because nobody seemed to know where we could pay for and get visas stamped on our passport. We were grumpy, hungry and tired, having been up from 2am to pack and prepare for the drive to London Heathrow airport to catch an early flight. Eventually, we joined a very long line of Iraqis and got our visas in all of one hour. I suppose this does not apply to all countries of the world, there appeared to be a fast-track line for certain countries with certain types of agreements with Turkey; the United States of America and some European countries come to mind.

The Blue Mosque

We knew it would be an interesting trip when four immigration police officers left their desks and came to chat with my sister and I as we sat waiting for the visas to be processed (the second round of waiting after the standing in the queues). I did not see this sort of desertion of duty post in the UK or anywhere else to be honest, and there we were, being told all the lovely places to visit, and how lovely we were, by these really good looking men in police uniform with guns and handcuffs hanging low on their hips. We perked up considerably. You see, in Istanbul, it is quite a novelty to be black as the city is not diverse in that sense. The men were incredibly charming; we were greeted and welcomed everywhere, our bags were carried for us, doors were opened, meals paid for, it was quite flattering, for the first two days. Then it became irritating.

The Blue Skies by Hagia Sofia
The Blue Skies by Hagia Sofia

“Hi Chocolate girls, where are you from?” My sister and I were shocked. Never in our lives had we been addressed in that way. But you move on, because it is such a stunning city, and you are on holiday. Nothing else mattered. Plus to be honest, I don’t think it came from a place where it was intended to make us uncomfortable. So if you are a “chocolate girl” travelling to Istanbul soon, be prepared!

If you plan to go to Istanbul anytime soon, here’s what a great time you could have. We loved it.

1. We got a confidence boost from all the smiles and attention we were getting from all the men. Be careful though, don’t get sucked in, this is just a novelty, keep your wits about you.

2. Stay in Sultanahmet, it is the old city and most of the historical sites are around it, you can walk everywhere. The streets are quite charming, narrow cobbled streets with houses in rows, and balconies. The driving can be crazy though so be careful.

3. Stay in Basileus, a love bed and breakfast place, http://www.basileushotel.com, what a lovely place. The breakfast was amazing and the staff were really friendly and happy to help. There’s turkish coffee and apple tea in the evenings downstairs, the cookies and cakes were amazing. Our room had a balcony and view looking out at an old building from the 15th centrury. They also offer a complementary airport pick-up.

4. Try the fish sandwich in Eminonu, just by the water. Remember to ask for extra spicy if you like it hot. You sit there and eat looking out to the water, with the cool breeze of the evening settling on your skin.

5. Take the ferry to Khadikoy and visit the Bazaar there; everything is death cheap and what a colourful market.

6. Visit the Grand Bazaar and try the dried fruits, turkish delight (traditional sweets), and other keepsakes from Turkey. The storekeepers are fantastic and are very quick to offer you apple tea or turkish coffee. What a huge market. Remember to haggle, or you may end up buying things inflated by 200%.

_MG_3246

7. Visit the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia. These sites are so old, that they reminded me of my humanity and the miracle that is our existence. That all these wars were fought, and empires fell, and these monuments remained made me feel so small, but in a very heartwarming way. They are all so beautiful, but remember to wear a flowing dress or trousers and take a scarf to cover your head and shoulders respectfully before you go in. Otherwise, the mosque staff will provide you with a blue shawl which a billion people have used.There is also an Archeological museum and Topkapi palace not far from Hagia Sofia. You will need a pass to go into the last three. Only the mosques are free to view, and there are quite a number of them.

8. Take the bosphorous dinner cruise. It costs about 35 Euros I think. When you are travelling on the water at night, the views of the city are amazing, the palaces (and there are several in Istanbul) are all lit up, there is a stunning bridge which I saw over sunset. You also get to enjoy the henna ceremony. It’s all very romantic as well, something to enjoy with that special someone I think.

9. Listen to the 4am call to prayer. I know. My sister thought I was crazy, but the call to prayer in Istanbul is quite different from the calls that I have heard before. The call which I heard from my hotel room was quite moving, the intoner sang from his heart, he had a lilt to his baritone, and I just sat up and listened. My sister did not have the same experience, but I was moved by his singing. I know what the words mean, although they are always sang in Arabic, and I really have no connection since I am not muslim. But a heartfelt chant is a heartfelt chant. Anywhere.

10. Watch the whirling dervishes, at Hodjapasha Cultural Center. The centre itself is full of history, a 550 year old turkish bath place converted into a cultural centre. At 70 turkish lira per person, the show was expensive but worth it. Very colourful and the acoustics was wonderful. I learnt that a Dervish is a Muslim religious man who is undergoing an apprenticeship of learning the profession that will bestow him with eternal livelihood. So the whirling is one method, which is used by the Sufis to get closer to Allah.

11. Visit Taksim. I was worried about the protesting which I thought was ongoing but by the time we ventured into Taksim, the square was full of tourists and people just having a good time. I have never seen skies more blue! The sun was out, people were having drinks, the food was amazing, lots of flat bread and wraps. We went to lovely club where we danced to loads of Turkish and American music, had a few drinks. It was a blast.

12. Istanbul has dozens of restaurants. Too many. It’s always nice and warm, and in the evening, the breeze comes in from the shores, so dress up and find a lovely place to eat. Remember to do the dinner cruise.

13. Finally, do not leave Istanbul without getting a traditional ottoman Hamam. The one next to Hagia Sofia is very good, the package is lovely and the soaps and creams used felt quite luxurious. It costs about 90 Euros. Take all the time you need after the hamam and the massage and just chill. Lie back, and read, or just doze lightly. It feels great. I got it on the day I left Istanbul and I thought it was an excellent parting gift to myself.

One week isn’t enough though, there is so much to be seen. You can pay for most things in dollars, euros or turkish lira. There’s a ferry, a tram system, a metro, and taxis. If you stay in Sultanahmet, you will most likely not need any of these (ok, maybe the ferry for the experience and the taxi for airport). Oh, and my map reading skills are much improved now 🙂

All photos are mine.