While in Nairobi, Kenya in 1992, Hilda Jacqueline Twongyeirwe, the executive director, Uganda Women Writers Association (FEMRITE) ,came across a few women who had woven their hair into dreadlocks.
When she returned to Uganda, Twongyeirwe, who had natural hair at the time, opted for dreadlocks as well.
“I thought that was a convenient way of life. In 2009, I went to a salon and the hairstylist turned my natural hair into dreadlocks,’ she says.
The hairdo cost her Shs20,000 (at the time). But obviously the case is different today. Nowadays, a number of hairstylists charge more than Shs200,000 to make dreadlocks.
Maintaining the locks
Over the years, the dreadlocks have grown. In fact today, her hair is so long that someone may mistake it for extensions.
“Having them has made life easy. The locks are flexible. I wear them at all functions. All I have to do is to go for hair styling. Sometimes, I wear a scarf, headband or simply leave it free,” she says.
And when she wants to wash her locks, she does it from home. “I use bathing soap. I don’t use shampoo because my skin reacts to hair products,” she says. Twongyeirwe says dreadlocks have saved her a lot of money and time since she hardly visits the salon.
My hair defines my personality
“Women’s hair is policed a lot. You have no idea how many people tell me to dye my hair. They keep telling me, “Try it out, you will look good.”
“I must admit though that the temptation to dye my hair has surfaced from time to time. Some years back, before locking my hair, I had natural hair. People would ask what was wrong with me. They did not seem to understand why I had natural hair. Was I broke? They often wondered. Or, was my husband not looking after me?
“These experiences have taught me the need to define myself. If you don’t, other people will do it for you. I want to applaud other women who love natural hair. Not that treating hair is wrong. No, it’s not. Everyone has a preference.
But, for those who love natural hair, who choose not to dye their hair, do not be traumatised by others. People need to stop defining dreadlocks as a sign of rebellion. It is a choice.”