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?