- Hair PREJUDICE. When it comes to a man wearing dreadlocks, ANDREW KAGGWA shares his experience.
“You’re full of surprises, first, you are way younger than I imagined, and then this.....” he says with his hands making animated gestures but with his eyes quite fixed on my hair. Such are conversations I have had to stomach every time an ardent reader of stories requests for a meet.
Many of these start in the email; “I really liked how you tackled this story on culture X or artist Y, do you think I can pick your mind on something, don’t worry I will pay for your time...” so the email goes.
As a journalist, most of the times you live for such feedback. This particular one was at Bulange in Mengo, a few gentlemen from one of the kingdom’s offices had picked interest in the stories I had run on omweso (a board game) and king’s court music that is becoming extinct.
For more than 20 minutes I was seated in their lobby, they bypassed me and went on with their work, on making a call that I was already in the vicinity and explaining my outfit, the perfect reaction was that, a cloudy gesture with, “then this.”
Dreadlocks have been in Ugandan communities for ages, in fact, some claim that Daniel Mwanga, a Ganda prince that later inherited the throne and wrote himself onto history by ordering the execution of Christians was the first Muganda to wear the hairstyle.
Much as this has never been proved, the past good number of years has seen the hairstyle become a trend in corporate corridors - girls easily don it unlike men.
In fact, working with a guy that wears dreadlocks is easy to fool you that the hair-style is now accepted by family, friends or even in the corporate world but that’s almost a myth.
My experience as a man wearing dreadlocks is that people are simply being tolerant - if they had their way and made rules they could enforce, men with dreadlocks would not be anywhere near employment. You know why?
They are potential thieves, drug dealers, musicians, mzungu hunters, gay and hey, you can’t trust them around your girlfriend - they are sleek womanizers that could divert her feelings towards you.
Many faces of dreadlocks
There are always labels that you will find yourself with when you wear dreadlocks in this country, that whoever is wearing them and they are men, they have definitely won battles and are still fighting.
Chris, a funny man that used to style my dreadlocks in 2015, he would refer to his clients as ‘abamalayo’ (those that have seen it all); in his view, to wear locks, one was sup-posed to be done with the world and their judgement.
“You don’t wear locks or tattoos when you still want to go sketch for jobs,” he would say.
And luck was never on his side, for one month, two and later more time, his business hit the rocks and that is when his family cornered him, they made him cut off the nasty locks before re-baptising and later sending him abroad for further studies.
In their view, just wearing the hair, a Godly part of him had been lost that a fresh baptism was inevitable - something I cannot call new. I have been confronted by church ushers that wanted to make weird inquiries; “Sorry! I wanted to know if you are here to pray.”
And that was my last time in that church and for some time, all churches.
In many places in this country, there will be a person with a bias towards dread-locks, I remember in one of my work places, this colleague always called me by girls’ names and afterwards pretending that he thought I was some girl.... then there people that will stop you in a busy place to ask if you have a match box or a lighter!
It even becomes worse when you have friends that are white, for some reason, peo-ple will believe you are sleeping with every mzungu, female, male or couple you’re talking to; if you’re not with a mzungu, then chances are, you are hunting for one - there even cases when younger boys with their mushrooming locks will walk up to you for tips on how to nail a white lady!
Yet on a brighter side of things, having the kind of hair makes you bolder and more organised - you prepare yourself for judgement and you live with it.
Of course it forces you into being organised so as not to be misunderstood, for instance, while it is easy to find many people in the corporate world wearing shorts and T-shirts for work on weekends, men with dreadlocks rarely pull off such moves.
For instance, being aware of how people are going to view me helps me work on my image - I dislike being formal but I have to be that when I show up at Swangz Avenue to interview one of the producers, they will not mistake me for an upcoming artiste hungry to score a hit song.
That is why even when am not formal, I will ensure the denim is clean, the shirt is well pressed and the shoes are clean and while all other people can have dandruff, a dread locked guy should never.
Generally, for the time I have worn the style, I have learnt that people will judge you regardless - they will judge the hair for being too neat, bushy and dirty.