A couple of days ago, Nigerian-American author, Nnedi Okorafor put up a picture of herself with her dreads on Facebook. The attack was brutal. Here’s the Facebook post below:
Nnedi Okorafor went on Twitter later and spoke about the attacks she got. While she received a lot of support, a huge amount of the attack directed at her came from Nigerians. She was called names in the comments, sent private messages that were just mean and basically, named and shamed. She went on Twitter in a series of tweets captured below:
Why I loved the way Nnedi Okorafor Responded
I remember when I was little, there were these twins in the place where I lived who had dreadlocks. There was a lot of myth about them and of course…the stories. Basically, the story was that as twins, they already were filled with evil spirits, but with the locks…they were definitely possessed by ancient African deities. Before their dreads could be cut, they had to go appease something or the other.
As long as I can remember, Nigerians have always approached dreads as something to be feared, and people with dread locks as suspicious. somehow, people who keep their locks are viewed as demon possessed. It’s the way we have approached things for years.
* Note: I’ll be using the following words interchangeably – dreads, dread locks & locks.
Over the years, I’ve been privileged to meet people from other African countries: Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Ethiopia and other countries who kept dread locks. It was natural and they did not have any spiritual problem that I could see. In other words, they were normal folk. Recently, lots of my friends now keep their locks. It is no big deal. It should not be a big deal.
I read Nnedi Okorafor’s book Zahrah the Windseeker, 7 years ago and I fell in love with the mind that could conceive that. We need to stop labeling people and defining them by their hair or their clothes, or any of those things we use to classify and stereotype people. I love this tweet she posted on the issue:
Finally, several years ago, my father visited a village high on a mountain in the North-east of Nigeria. No civilization had touched that culture. The people went naked and had no contact with the outside world. When I watched the footage of that visit, one thing stayed with me…they all had dreadlocks on their head.