Mother Africa is unique in very many ways; especially due to its bulging youthful population. In Kenya, for example, three quarters are young people.
Over time, the youth have complained of being sidelined from economic opportunities and undermined in various situations.
Lately, there has been an emergence of new trends among the Kenya youth, one of them being the emergence of dreadlocks as a hairstyle. This is a departure from the Afro hairstyle which was synonymous with Africans of the older generation.
A lot of youth in Kenya have certainly embraced dreadlocks as a fashion and it is continuing not only to grow amongst them but also among young children; and even older people. For this reason, I decided to dive deeper to understand why this hairstyle is on the rise, its advantages and disadvantages.
A lot of young people have been discriminated against and accused wrongly because of keeping dreadlocks. The most common assumption being that locks are an emblem of crime. People have had a lot to say about this including those who have the style and those who do not have it.
I managed to talk to some of them to try and get their thoughts about this and what their experience has been. The main question: Why are youth with dreadlocks often despised and judged as wayward people in society?
Issues like this have created fear amongst the youth especially those with dreadlocks and those planning to have them. They say they are judged by society and even suspected by the authorities even though they are law-abiding citizens and locks are not being outlawed. Though some of them have remained firm about having the style despite the situation, some have opted for a clean shave in order to avoid unnecessary pre-judgments.
Joh Owino, a youth residing in Kibra said what he went through while having dreadlocks, and how life has been ever since he shaved them. He says that when he had dreadlocks, people associated him with crime even though he was an obedient citizen. With the nature of his job, people didn’t trust him. Others said that he did not look presentable with that hairstyle.
He talks of having noticed changes in customer behaving from when he cut his hair short. He receives more customers and people are now more open to him than ever before. Therefore, this definitely shows how society has stereotyped people who have dreadlocks.
I also spoke to a parent who has embraced this style and has gone further to allow her child to have the locks. She says that she liked the trendy style of the dreadlocks, and so, the main reason why her son has them. Interestingly she has chosen to ignore what society says about her son. The son will not be shaved even if it will mean looking for a school that accommodates such hairstyles, she observed.
Of importance, Owino and the child’s mother wish for a time where no one will be judged according to their appearance but according to their deeds hence creating a fairground for all to get equal opportunities as deserved.