By Ithuteng Mashabela
Pic by Leigh Raymond: Mara Horowitz, a Rhodes student who’s adopted the dreads
Nina Rivers is a young, white, female Rhodent, typical in some respects but somewhat different in her choice of hairstyles. Rivers sports wispy, blonde dreadlocks that have earned her the admiration of her peers, but have made her mother cry. “Conservative white people don’t like them because they think I’m trying to be black,” she explains, but admits that she donned her dreads simply because she thought that they looked cool.
Rivers is one of a handful of white students at Rhodes who sport dreadlocks. Student Alex Dubb has been growing his dreads for two years now. He has mixed feelings about the reactions of both white and black people. “Some people try to take advantage of who they think I’m trying to be,” he reveals, “particularly the street kids.” Rivers and Dubb, as well as third year student, James Spiers, all mention that they have often been referred to as ‘Ras’ (Rastafarians) and encouraged to express brotherhood by giving what they can to the street kids.
Two millennia ago, the Jewish Nazarites took spiritual vows that bound them to growing their hair into lock-like bulks. Samson was described in the Bible as having seven locks of hair which served as the seat of his strength. These are two ancient examples of the deeper spiritual beliefs that surround growing dreadlocks. Today, you needn’t be a devout Nazarite or a Rastafarian to grow your own mop of dreads. While some may stand firm in the belief of cultural appropriation that is associated with the idea of having dreads, many believe that it is simply a form of self-expression, this the opinion of Lloyd Kruger, a second year BA student who is growing his hair to eventually twist it into locks.
Spiers believes that dreadlocks reveal something about the intellect of the people who have them. “We’re for the most part very intelligent people, says Spiers. “My dreads are not about whether I smoke weed or not,” explains Rivers. When worn by white people, dreads are seldom simply a symbol of afrocentrism or recognition of natural beauty. Sometimes, it’s just about them looking funky. Hate it or love it, it certainly looks like the dreaded white man is here to stay.