Updated: Oct 10, 2020
In our bid to assimilate to the socially constructed picture of what is presentable, we have probably consciously or subconsciously internalised narratives about natural hairstyles that shed them in a negative light. Progress requires constant unlearning so that we can re-educate ourselves with the truth. In this new series we get to meet different ladies as they share their natural hair journey and experiences with locs (a hairstyle involving permanently twisting hair together that can only be undone by shaving). The ups and downs of being that Rasta Chic. Through their journey, you may just be empowered to embrace your own authenticity and gain a new perspective on the style. It is time for us to stop seeing the weed smoking, dancehall playing, ever friendly persona we have in our heads, and instead start seeing that she could be a God fearing mom, quietly calm bookworm, trendy style icon, nerdy science student or even an assertive outspoken lover of life. Here is Tarie, the beautiful architect whose locs are well on their way to making her a modern day Rapunzel.
“the modern understanding of dreadlocks is that the British, who were fighting Kenyan warriors (during colonialism in the late 19th century), came across the warriors’ locs and found them ‘dreadful,’ thus coining the term ‘dreadlocks.’” Personally, I refer to my hairstyle as locs, having dropped “dread” altogether given its negative connotation - Gabrielle Kwarteng for Vogue
For a lot of us straight hair was always the goal, the little girl on the relaxer box was the picture of pretty in our little heads, bows and all. Transitioning to locs was a roundabout journey that kind of had been predetermined in my case and just took me a while to get. Having weak hair led to constant damage every time that I tried relaxing it and led to a frustration induced big chop at the early age of 13. Having short hair just made better sense while at boarding school rather than constantly battling my hair into socially acceptable styles. A little experimentation with a wet towel to make bush locs for the weekends birthed an interest within that I did not acknowledge until I was a few years older, in college and been through another chemically induced damage phase.
Having locs came with a new world of hair care maintenance experiences. First and foremost, finding a good loctician is a little like trying to date and find the one in this day and age. You go through the ones that break your hair, do a shoddy job or just pull your hair so tightly that you wonder how your scalp is still intact. When you do find the one though, that wonderful unicorn who understands your hair and makes it look beautiful without putting you through hell for it, then for all intents and purposes you lock that relationship down (excuse the pun). After being with the same loctician for four years, even decisions like moving to a new town have to be considered in context of how one of us will have to travel to the other every month for the hair appointment. Day to day maintenance is easy and relatively cheaper compared to other styles though. I am not a high maintenance girl in general and the easy care and effortless beauty of this hairstyle really suits my personality. A regular shampoo wash and some oils or Shea butter to keep it looking neat because God forbid we give anyone reason to believe the stereotypes.
On that note the embodiment of all stereotypes is in the two little words, “Ndeipi Rasta”. Words that truly should just be a greeting have become a lot more than that. There is no other hairstyle out there that gets called out as much by random strangers even on the street.
An over familiarity is suddenly adopted by people the moment they see your locs and they feel entitled to your time or even just speaking to you. It does not matter if you are having a bad day or just do not want people in your space like that, people expect good vibes from you simply because of your hairstyle. The sudden loss of professionalism though is a peeve. Till operators will switch from, “Good morning, how are you today?” to “Ndeipi rasta” as if I am their friend from around the block and different from the previous customer they were treating with the polite respect of universal customer care guidelines. I eventually ended up at a police station at one point after having it out with an officer at a regular roadblock because instead of giving me the courtesy of professionally introducing themselves, asking for my particulars and telling me why they had stopped me, they immediately launched into over familiarity territory and treated me as if I was a criminal for refusing to entertain it.
Being on this journey though has given me beautiful moments. Sharing the experience with my sister has led to having a natural hair journey partner with the shared DIYs and hair appointments. My hair is so much longer than it ever was when it wasn’t locked and this has opened up a variety of new styles I can try, giving me options I never had before when it came to styling my hair. I have learnt that my hair can be used to communicate so much more than I thought before. It can be an expression of my ethnicity, of religious convictions or simply a fashion preference – anything but dreadful!
Written by: @kinkyKrownofGlory
Photography by: @tallgrassmedia