The sports category has moved to a new website.

Why dreadlocks were an important symbol for Kenya's Mau Mau

Did you know the Mau Mau of Kenya considered dreadlocks a symbol of self-love and self-acceptance?

Just like Mau Mau, Rastafari regard the locks as both a sign of their African identity and a religious vow of their separation from the oppressors'.

In April 2022, Mau Mau Field Marshal, Muthoni wa Kirima became one of the last remaining freedom fighters to shave her dreadlocked hair.

For a majority of Mau Mau fighters, dreadlocks were seen as a sacred symbol of defiance against the British colonizers.

Field Marshal Wa Kirima revealed, during the ceremony, that she had not shaved her hair for close to 70 years.

While fighting against the British, Muthoni was injured on many occasions and at times looked death in the eye. She experienced two miscarriages which eventually left her unable to bear children but her fighting spirit never waned.

ADVERTISEMENT

Sporting the signature dreadlocks worn by all the fighters, Muthoni stayed in the forest and fought for the freedom of her country until independence was achieved on December 12, 1963.

Emerging from the forest where she and other fighters had lived in the wild and battled extreme weather conditions, they could hardly believe their achievement.

ADVERTISEMENT

Once free from captivity, the Mau Mau continued to wear their dreadlocks as a symbol of anti-colonialism as well as a demonstration of self-love and self-acceptance.

Dreadlocks are an integral feature not only in Kenya's colonial culture but beyond. Dreadlocks are the natural result of three to six months of uncombed hair. Strains of hair intertwine (or lock) together and create the appearance of “ropes”.

All types of hair eventually clunk or matte together if left free of combs and hair relaxers for a long time. Thick and coarse hair develops or grows dreadlocks faster, easier, and may not need chemicals or repeated twisting. Thin straight hair may take longer.

ADVERTISEMENT

The true origin of dreadlocks is a topic of ongoing debate, primarily because the style holds significance in so many cultures including the Egyptians, Greeks, and even Hindus.

Though dreadlocks can be traced as far back as 2500 BC with the Hindu god Shiva, they are mostly associated with Rastafarians and African roots.

Artifacts and remains from archeological digs have also provided examples of Ancient Egyptians wearing dreadlocks and braided hair.

ADVERTISEMENT

Followers of Leonard Howell, one of the forefathers of Rastafarianism, were reported to be particularly proud and inspired by the Mau Mau.

Howell was the first Rasta preacher alongside Joseph Hibbert, Archibald Dunkley and Robert Hinds and is known by many as The First Rasta.

Jamaican responses to Mau Mau varied dramatically by class; for members of the middle and upper classes, Mau Mau represented the worst of potential visions for a route to black liberation.

However, for marginalised Jamaicans in poorer areas, and especially Rastafari, Mau Mau was inspirational and represented an alternative method for procuring genuine freedom and independence.

ADVERTISEMENT

For these people, Mau Mau epitomised a different strand of pan-Africanism that had most in common with the ideas of Marcus Garvey. Theirs was a more black-focused vision that ran alongside and sometimes over more traditional views.

Just like Mau Mau, Rastafarians regard the 'locks as both a sign of their African identity and a religious vow of their separation from their oppressors.

JOIN OUR PULSE COMMUNITY!

Unblock notifications in browser settings.
ADVERTISEMENT

Eyewitness? Submit your stories now via social or:

Email: news@pulselive.co.ke

Recommended articles

You can cook these 5 African dishes to celebrate Africa Day 2024

You can cook these 5 African dishes to celebrate Africa Day 2024

7 everyday activities straining your back and how to deal with them

7 everyday activities straining your back and how to deal with them

7 stereotypes associated with big-bellied men

7 stereotypes associated with big-bellied men

White House chefs who crafted meals for Ruto, Kibaki & Moi during U.S. state visits

White House chefs who crafted meals for Ruto, Kibaki & Moi during U.S. state visits

Comparing Ruto’s White House dinner menu with past state visits by Kibaki & Moi

Comparing Ruto’s White House dinner menu with past state visits by Kibaki & Moi

Inside 200-year-old Blair House where Biden invited Ruto to spend the night [Photos]

Inside 200-year-old Blair House where Biden invited Ruto to spend the night [Photos]

7 common causes for electric kettle breakdowns

7 common causes for electric kettle breakdowns

5 risks associated with nail dryers & safer options to go for

5 risks associated with nail dryers & safer options to go for

Meet identical Kenyan twins who are pilots at the best airline in U.S.

Meet identical Kenyan twins who are pilots at the best airline in U.S.

ADVERTISEMENT