Hey Rastabella!

I’ve always been fascinated by Rastafarianism as a belief system, the mysticism and grandeur and ceremony of it. Although Morgan Heritage sang “Don’t Haffi Dread” to be Rasta (this is not a dreadlocks thing, a divine conception of the heart), I think most would agree that the majesty of Rastafari is most beautifully represented by dreadlocks.

A proud Rasta wears their locks with pride, long and loose, or bound up, Bobo Shanti style. Those who really believe in the particular tenets of the faith take the Nazarite Vow — Leviticus 21:5 — “They shall not make baldness upon their head, neither shall they shave off the corner of their beard nor make any cuttings in their flesh.

Now not every person with dreadlocks is a Rasta, but most of the people I know — especially my Caribbean people — grow their locks after being inspired by the belief. And even if they don’t adhere closely to the rules and tenets of Rastafari, they treat their locks with sacred care.

Check out the lovely and amazing locks on the two beautiful black women in the photo here. The sister on the left is Trinidad born, New York based dancer, choreographer and artistic director Makeda Thomas.

The sister on the right is the one and only Attilah Springer, brilliant writer, social activist, blogger extraordinare. In her own words, she “is a writer and activist, born to writer and activist parents at a time when it was still cool to be an activist in Trinidad.” She’s involved in the Rights Action Group, and is passionate about the anti-smelter movement that rallies against the introduction of aluminum smelters to the south-western peninsula of Trinidad. Attillah produces and co-presents New Voices, a weekly youth activism magazine on T&T’s first community television station Gayelle. She also writes a weekly social and political commentary column for the Trinidad Guardian and serves as Assistant Secretary of the Media Association of Trinidad and Tobago. And in her free time, she’s busy blogging at Four Fingers and a Thumb. Whew. Got all that?

Attilah and I went to high school together, and I’ve known her since I was like, fourteen years old. She’s always been cool people. When I decided to do a loving homage to dreads, I had to reach out to her. Please note — I am not sure if Attilah would identify herself as Rasta in terms of her spiritual beliefs. We just talked about her fabulous hair!

The first thing I had to ask her was about the word itself. Dread. Locks. I’ve been told by readers that people just call them locs nowadays, and “dread” is no longer acceptable to some. But having grown up in that Caribbean sphere where the hair is often not just a style, I’ve ALWAYS known and referred to people as “dread.” Aye dread.” “Whappenin’, dread?”

“I don’t know about this not calling them dreads anymore. that sounds like people trying to prettify having their hair natty. I don’t have a specific name for my hair. Is mih hair!” declares Attilah. All semantics aside — whether you call them locs or locks or dreadlocks or dreads, they’re a beautiful, regal extension of self, and a proud indicator of afrocentric identity. Attilah takes great care of her hair. So I had to ask her about products and maintainance.

“I like to keep it basic most of the time. Because I’m a fussy vegan, I use this Nature’s Gate Tea Tree Shampoo and re-moisturize with olive oil that i’ve put a few drops of my favorite perfume in. When i was in Babylon-don, I used to use a Body Shop Coconut Oil hair thing which was as close to hair products as i ever got! Suffice to say i’m not a ‘Revlon Rasta,” says Tillah.

So what does this dreadlocked empress do to pamper her locks?

“My idea of a hair treat is to go to a river or waterfall and crush the pulp of a youngish cocoa pod, slather it on my hair, sit on a rock and let it soak een while I think about life. Then I take a good dip. This is classic cheesy Bob Marley-esque dread behavior,” she explains.

Cocoa? In your hair? Yup yup. Attilah explained it all. “The cocoa in its natural form is excellent for a variety of reasons, and of course it smells great. And the water makes your hair feel so soft, it’s unreal. Hmmm, i need to make a river lime soon…” she mused.

So there you have it, rastabellas — straight from a Caribbean woman’s mouth. Of course mighty mixtress Anita Grant knows quite a bit about cocoa for skin and hair use, and that link has great recipes for those of us who aren’t so lucky to have cocoa trees readily available.

This is just part one of a little feature on loc maintainance. I’ll be hitting y’all with part two — a long overdue feature on the fave hair products of the amazing Andrea Kane — later this week.

Holla back, rastabellas! What are your favorite all-natural hair products?

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  1. Bella I am linking to this article on my site..it fits quite well with my theme!

  2. naadiihead says:

    great feature! it’s nice to feel as though those of us with locs or dreadlocs are not shoved to the side and viewed as “other” all the time.

    i might have to make a tropical voyage just to try the cocoa pod thing.

    thanks again and kudos!

  3. What’s your site, MrsYFA? Let me know, I wanna check it out!

  4. Bella, you know I just love yuh gal!!! Since I am loc’d, I love reading about locs and the care of them. I am of Carribean descent (St.Kitts is where mi people come from)and celebrate all things Carribean. Keep the posts on locs coming, you have a reader for life.


  5. So Bellas what is the correct protocol when it comes to the word “dread”? I hear the word and it calls to mind the image of someone with stick straight silky blonde hair pointing at my head and saying having coarse nappy hair is just about the worst condition anyone on this planet can suffer. Dread … dreadful. Is that all in my own American Midwestern mind? I see a head full of magnificent locks and I’m inspired. It’s energy, it’s strength, it’s DREAD … that doesn’t fit. Delilah cut off Sampson’s seven locks. There are paintings on the tombs in Egypt depicting people wearing locks. Indians, Celts, Vikings all locked their hair. Did their contemporaries call them dreadlocks? Growing my natural hair out has been quite a journey. Nine people in ten will compliment it but it’s the comments of that tenth person, the one who screws their nose up and calls it something akin to dreadful, that gives me pause. Don’t get me wrong, nothing and no one will ever make me go back to a relaxer. I proudly rock my two strand twists and my jazzy headbands but I’m only human and some days it’s hard to take the stink eye directed at my hair. Sometimes I’m just dazed by all the hair mess. Am I too sensitive?

  6. Thanks so much for showing just how gorgeous dreadlocks can truly be.I’ve been a proud dreadlock wearer for almost two years. I use Carol’s Daughter, Nature’s Gate, Jamaican Lime and Mango products, and Dr.Bronner’s Magic Shampoo. I’d love to see more pictures of dreadlocks and product reviews. Mine are currently shoulder length, and I’m looking for style ideas and products to keep them healthy.Peace and Blessings, Lisa

  7. AfroButterfly says:

    I’m Jamerican so i have known many people with locs. but as fars as the word dread being out not as far as i know. my uncle albe everyone just calls him Dread.

  8. Hmmm. What to call locked hair…. Well, I am of Caribbean descent, so I don’t see anything wrong with calling them dreadlocks, or dreads, or locks. Now, the editor in me balks at the terms ‘locs’ or ‘lox.’ Do you realized how UGLY that looks when conjugated? For eample, “I’m in the process of locing (or loxing??) my hair.” WTF?? And for the record, any implications or statements to the effect that I have smoked salmon in my hair (or that my hair IS smoked salmon) will not be received too kindly.

    On a separate note, I gotta try that green tea shampoo!!!

  9. I think we are over-analyzing and intellectualizing something that is spiritual and beautiful and very personal. Dread has a meaning in modern times of negativity but I believe that the connection with dread locks may refer to the biblical use of ‘dread’.. to signify seriousness and complexity, as in ‘ times will be dread’. Not always meaning negative, but depending mainly on how you look at it.
    Rastafarianism has always been about establishing blackness as a culture that is dominant on its own, not trying to repress any other culture but to appreciate our own.
    If some people want to refer to their hair as something else thats fine, but I hope its not to make it more palatable to others.

  10. Thank you, Bella!!! I have waist length Dreads and use dreads when it comes to my hair. I was inspired by my Rasta aunt whom at one point in time had dreads past her knees. I hear alot of really igornant comments but, I don’t waste time on the lost causes. Gotta find that green tea shampoo!

  11. rebelgrrl says:

    great discussion! Interesting to think of how we refer to our hair…
    On another tip, I mix up a great hair oil for my locks. The base is almond oil and i put in a few drops of patchouli and eucalyptus, some melted shea butter, and enough lavender for it to become the dominant scent.

    I mix it all up in a spray bottle, it has to be a good one that wont get clogged to fast if some of the shea starts to solidify. If this does happen rinse the nozzle in some hot water.

    It smells great and pple are always asking me what i use in my hair cus the almond oil (i think) makes it nice and shiny.

    Anyone else have any homegrown mixtures?
    I just found this site and luv luv luv it, keep up the good work Afrobella!

  12. Hey Bella, my site is YawdFromAbroad.com. I left it off initially because I’ve commented a lot here recently, especially on the The Different Kind of Ask Afrobella post last week and I don’t want to abuse your comments forum with seemingly self-promotion. I respect what you do here too much for that. Have a great day!

  13. I had never heard that it wasn’t ok to some to call them “dreads”. Hm.

    The best set of locs I have ever seen is on a man who works at the Coach in Pentagon City Mall near DC. He proves that natural hair styles can be both professional, daring and ever so attractive.

    PS Bella, I have been meaning to ask you your thoughts on the ethics of weaves that use real human hair. Too often I think a lot of women forget that that hair had to come from someplace, and it’s usually a sad story. I would love to hear your thoughts on it!

  14. My sister has dreadlocks. I am going to forward your post to her.

  15. @mireille, i would also be very, very interested to read about the traffic of hair for weaves.

    for natural hair products i like lately:
    Lush has 3 products with names that confuse me but i was drawn to the moisturizing power potential in the ingredients. so far, it’s working for me.

    H’suan Swen Hua (bay leaf, avocado, bananas, eggs and other things) for a 30-minute hair moisturizer

    Solid shampoo – Trichomania – coconut, coconut and coconut, etc

    Solid conditioner – Jungle –
    Ingredients: Cocoa Butter among other essential oils and things

  16. I had locs for two years. I’m African American and I prefer the term locs as aposed to dreads. There was nothing “dreadful” about my hair, but it was matted and “locked” upon itself. Aside from rastas, the only people I know who use the term dreads are people that are just doing something fashionable as aposed(is that a word?) to accepting it as a lifestlye.

    But in a way, it’s not that serious. I am not offended when someone called my hair “dreads.”
    And it is also important to point out that rastas did not originate dreadlocks. They have been worn for centuries in Kenya, Egypt, and India. http://home.hawaii.rr.com/kauaihandyman/kenya_057.jpg

  17. Thanks Bella for writing this article. I’m a loose natural, but I love dreads. I’m interested in products/recipes used to maintain them. I saw the most beautiful gray dreads on an elderly woman today who looked so regal wearing them. I just had to compliment her. Our hair is so beautiful.

  18. i am not yet rockin’ dreadlocks but have been seriously contemplating it for a few years. i do have natural hair and i make some natural products for myself. one mixture i love to put in my hair once or twice weekly is about two tablespoons grapeseed and olive oil w/ a few drops of peppermint and rosemary essential oils (chamomile is more suitable for light colored hair than rosemary). then i heat a wet towel and wrap my damp hair in it until it cools. so it’s kinda like a steam treatment you can do @ home. depending on time, i may wrap my hair twice to let the oils really penetrate the hair shafts. my hair is so moisturized afterwards and smells pretty awesome too. i think this would work great on dreadlocks as well…

  19. “I don’t know about this not calling them dreads anymore. that sounds like people trying to prettify having their hair natty. I don’t have a specific name for my hair. Is mih hair!” declares Attilah.

    WONDERFUL QUOTE!!!! This is very true. West Indians still by and large use the term dreadlocks but it has been my experince (I’m a New Yorker who had dreadlocks for 13 years) that most African-American women do not like to use the term because they see it as negative and it is also my belief they do not want to have their ‘prettified”/stylized locs associated in any way with Rastafarianism. Having locs here in the States is something I see as becoming more trendy and a lot less cultural. I am actually writing a story on this and would love to interview Atillah. I will reach out to her for sure! Thanks.

  20. Kenyan Dread says:

    Thanks for this post and your whole website Afrobella. You’re doing a great service to us. I’m a Kenyan dreadlock wearer and I call them dreads or dreadlocks. I’ve had my dreads for six years. I like to use oils that aren’t too heavy. I use coconut or olive oil, sometimes with some essential oils added in– orange or lavender, or both. The almond oil recipe sounds good. I don’t like using heavy shampoos or conditioners that are difficult to rinse out of the hair and leave a residue.

  21. “In Jamaica the term dreadlocks was first recorded in the 1950s as a derogatory term when the “Young Black Faith”, an early sect of the Rastafari which began among the marginalized poor of Jamaica in the 1930s, ceased to copy the particular hair style of Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia and began to wear locks instead. It was said that they looked ‘dreadful’ with their locks, which gave birth to the modern name ‘dreadlocks’ for this ancient style. Different theories exist about the origin of Rastalocks. Some sources trace Rastalocks back to Indians who arrived in Jamaica to work as indentured laborers in the late 19th century, some of whom were among the first followers of Leonard Howell. Others believe the first Rasta dreadlocks were derived from the “dreaded locks” of the Mau Mau largely Kikuyu protonationalist insurgency against British colonialism in 1940s Kenya.”

    “Similarly, the Rastafari wear locks as an expression of inner spirituality. For them, the term “dread” refers to a “fear of the Lord”, expressed in part as alienation from the perceived decadence and other evils of contemporary society and a return to the Covenant with the Almighty, Jah Rastafari.

    Another interpretation among the Rastafari is that “dread” refers to the fear locked Mau Mau warriors inspired among the colonial British”


    there’s a little wiki for yah…many interpretations, some bad some not so bad…but trust me in jamaica in this day and age aint nuttn “dreadful” bout being a rasta…its certainly not a derogatory term nowadays, more a greeting if anything else “waah gwaan dread?”

  22. Hi Bella,

    I moved from St. Lucia to the US 20yrs ago but my happiest and most fondest childhood memories are from St. Lucia. Your blog always give me a nostalgic feeling of the Caribbean and my family, something I don’t always get where I am. You’re doing a great job!


    Nydia Norville
    Luxe Essentials,LLC

  23. Nice to see a post of locks afrobella. I am still in the process of figuring out the best natural products for my hair as well, although I make regular trips to the hairdresser. I am what they call a salon rasta…though I don’t particularly like being referred to as rasta since I am not. One. I figure since i don’t follow the faith, it’s unfair to be referred to as such. It’s like calling all Indians hindu.
    Anyway, I would love to see more reviews on products,that are as natural as possible. So sick of the damn manufactured chemicals. Unlike Atillah, trips to the river with requisite cocoa pod in hand are a little bit inconvenient…LOL May look into that almond oil recipe though.

  24. Darn it….my internet went out just as I submitted a LONG comment! I’ll recap in brief: not a Rasta but I have had dreads (yes, dreads) since 2005. Use mostly oil products (sometimes Carol’s Daughter, sometimes drugstore). Because my hair is curly (and since I started locking, it seems like my new-growth is actually silky), I sometimes use a lightweight gel to avoid flyaways. I would prefer not to, but oil is not as reliable and build up occurs too quickly.

    Can anyone recommend some good at-home coloring products? I have not been satisfied with the products I used pre locs( Prference, any of the bull they market to Black women, Feria, etc.).

  25. I’ve been natural since 1997 and loc’d since 2004. When I first went natural, the movement hadn’t taken hold and it was near impossible to find products that worked for me. I spent a lot of time on websites like nappturality.com and on yahoo groups sharing hair stories and product reviews. I’ve tried so many products…I was a product junkie, always trying to find the product that worked for my texture. Finally, I switched to natural products and they really work. I make my own hair oil. It’s an olive oil base with jojoba, sweet almond, and coconut oil. I don’t use shea butter anymore (I did when my hair was loose) becuse of build up. I use Aubrey Organics shampoo and alternate with Dr. Bronner’s to clarify. I also rinse periodically with apple cider vinegar and water. I love my hair, although sometimes I miss wearing my afro :) I think one day, maybe 10 years from now, I’ll cut off my locs and start again.

  26. Hey ab, whats hot. Just wanted to say thanks for the site and infomation. Im a guy with locs and am getting ready to cut them to the root (retire from my job after 25 years). I just think a new life is energing and I want to embrace it with a clean focus. Thanks again amd keep up the good work.

  27. kofi nartey says:

    hello all bredren and sistren in the caribbean who love rasta.
    I am the founder of (KEEP ALL MANKIND SUSTAINABLE K.A.M.S) a community based organization in the wonderful Krobo Land of Ghana where all is natural and the best town of mango growing.

    Lets consider repartriation and take it serious because i want all my brothers and sisters rastas to come home.

    I have a 3 bedroom accommodation for any carribean who would love to visit Ghana and kroboland.I am rendering this accommodation free for any true rasta who want to come and visit,live in Zion Ghana.

    Kofi Nartey
    Keep All Mankind Sustainable (K.A.M.S)
    P O BOX SA 290
    GHANA 23321
    PHONE 233-244-817772

  28. alazar henok says:

    hi hi am alazar from ethiopian i just want intro all interested member .

  29. I really like the length of your locs! Just how do you trim your hair when it needs to be trimmed?! I am currently growing out mine and (5 years and going strong) and by my calculations I should have hair all the way down by back the end of 2009. I am waiting until then to start trimming my hair so that my locs will be more even and the thinned out parts will then grow out!

  30. i don’t think it makes sense to put a stigma on the word “dreadlocks”, there’s already enough confusion to others as far as what dreads are about. we don’t need to change what they’re called to suit others, we didn’t style our hair this way for others, we shouldn’t name them for others. As far as treatment, i saw someone else had mentioned Lush; This is a great company, al their products are handmade and they’re worldwide so it’s available everywhere. the solis shampoo bar called SeaNick is great, has sea salt (to tighten loose locks) and bits of seaweed, smells great too!
    Also, i recently started using a coal tar shampoo. (which does NOT smell great!)A friend of mine recommended it as i have had my locks for 5 years but i still get loose strands hangin out (adam calls them “spaghetti’s”!) Tightens up very well.

  31. as I understand it…the term dreadlocks was assigned when the Rastafari way of life was first spreading across the globe. I am Jamaican and asked my grandmother about it. She said they were called dread-locks because they were considered dreadful looking. Further, the “dreadful” characteristic was cast upon the wearer and ideas about his or her lifestyle,(beliefs, hygiene myths, eating habits etc. You know people make up rumors before they just ask about something.) I have never heard any of my Rastafari uncles refer to their crowns as dreads or dreadlocks. Nonetheless, even though I’m not a Ras’ when someone refers to mine as such, I don’t reprimand, but gently introduce the idea of the term locs as an alternative. Just a personal take on things…

    Loved your post!

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