Dreads (1999)

This book about the history of the hairstyle dubbed “dreadlocks” is hard to place in just one geographic category but, for simplicity’s sake, I’ve placed it in the Caribbean. The popularization of the style and the use of the name “dreads” is no-doubt attributable to Jamaica. This book has a foreword by Alice Walker. She too begins with Jamaica, before she travels back through time and space to the people and places that brought the aesthetic to the small island country. She talks about the Sadhus – Hindu holy men who have a religious tradition rooted in the hairstyle – who immigrated to Jamaica. She talks of the Ethiopian Coptic priests who also carried the tradition in their homeland. Together with sub-Saharan African influence, that melting pot brewed Rastafarianism and it is that ethos that has carried the hairstyle far and wide, reconnecting with others who share or adopt it. This includes the Maori in New Zealand, the Mau Mau in Kenya, the Fulani of Senegal, the Himba of Angola and Namibia, and the Sadhus, Sikhs, and Sinhalese of the Indian subcontinent. This book profiles individuals who wear dreads and offers reflections on their purpose in each person’s life. The lion’s share of the entries come from Jamaica, but some are from places as far as Japan, where a community of Rasta-Buddhists has developed in Tokyo.


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