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Entertainment of Thursday, 16 February 2012


Ghanaman and The Rastaman- A Hair Witness Account

There are issues that you never give a thought to until you find yourself embroiled in them. Take the rasta phenomenon. How does the Ghanaian relate to the Rastaman? Well, no need to scratch your head. By a twist of circumstances, Yours truly got the answer first hand; I mean through hard core, firsthand experience. During a recent abroad not too long ago, I allowed my hair some freedom of growth. Just that. Simply that. Over some time, I started getting a strange look from the mirror. Anyway, I mused in self-encouragement, what’s wrong with a new hairstyle? Our women change their looks all the time, don’t they? Thus I continued to groom (wrong word), I allowed the hair to grow on its own. Soon it caught the attention of fellow Ghanaians in ‘‘exile.’’ They worried. Why can’t I cut or trim? Am I that busy? Every complaint about the state of my hair was from the Ghanaian community. No one else ever commented about the kinky, bushy, wild growth. Here, I believe some descriptions would help. (I’ve got pictures but I won’t risk showing them to you). My rasta, for that is what the hair had become, was not the long flowing, Afro-Moses climbing plant. For a black brother, I happen to have curly, wavy hair (or so I have been told). If you ask me, the texture of my hair is akin to that of our Fulani kindred. Owing to this, my rasta formed rather easily. No twisting, no braiding and no splashing with raw eggs. In fact, I washed it everyday (that is, as long as the winter days allowed my body to get near water).Only thing was that like Sampson, I wasn’t barbering and like John the Baptist I wasn’t combing. Result? A matted mass of locks hanging in all directions. Yes, they were locks and they appeared dreadful. (now you know where 'dreadlocks' came from).

Daringly, I carried this hairstyle to the motherland. And I decided to let ‘sleeping’ locks hang. I might as well have been conducting a survey on Ghanaman’s attitude to the Rastaman. Of course, the first comments came from close associates: ‘‘Oh, but you are not like that’’ (How am I?), -‘‘This is not our culture.’’ (Not our culture? How about Cocacola?), ‘‘Don’t you know you are a gentleman?’’ (Hmmm? tell me about me).

Out in the public domain, reactions were as varied as they were interesting. To begin with, in close or intimate encounters I always had the feeling that the other fellow is reminding himself: 'this is a Rastaman, this is a Rastaman, this is a Rastaman...' Then there is this 'wao-what-do-we-have-here' look from the dentist or eye specialist when they say ‘next’ and you step into their consulting room. Do you become a special case when you carry the Rasta image?

At the bank, tellers serving me often have to interrogate my new hairstyle. (Don’t forget they have to verify that the rasta head before them is the same as scanned on their computer screen). So there you go again; justifying why you changed your own hair. Worse, you are held hostage by a friendly but bored bank worker who offers opinion on your 'before' and 'now' looks. Actually, quite a few go beyond that. ‘‘So Rasta, what is your main woman saying about this new look? How about the girlfriend too?’’ (Please, can I have my money now?)

I also found out that in conflict situations the rasta-haired stands to get the upper hand. The Ghanaian 'recognises' (I almost said 'fears') the Rastaman. On the few times that people stepped on my toes their apology became more forthcoming when they raised their head and noticed my rasta.

A big incentive of carrying the rasta image is that you partake in the huge dose of goodwill and REES-PECT that flows within their community. I realised that there is a proud and friendly rasta fraternity out there. I never bumped into a Rastaman who didn’t winked at me or touched my fist with his.

Each time I got the chance to chat with a ‘‘brethen’’, I quickly let on that I am quite new. One senior man was very positive. Dressed in an all African wear, he had grey beard and long locks turbaned in a huge green beret. This master rasta philosophised that I took the good decision because I was CONSCIOUS. ‘Conscious’? (Well, not a bad word).Then his warning: I should fight on and disregard the people of Babylon. (Babylon? I thought this place existed only in Biblical times). Another Rastaman at Accra New Town offered me a brand new bandana. ‘Yeah mon', he enthused; ‘wipe your sweat.’

Rasta or Rastafarianism (for long), is a movement on its own. Although the likes of me cannot claim to understand it, it should be common knowledge that it goes beyond a hair statement. (I hope I'm right). Of course, in these matters prejudice has its dynamics. In Ghana rasta is rasta. As long as you wear the image you encounter the love, the hate and all the endless etceteras that rasta evokes. Lesson learnt. Period over.

Just on entering the Aflao station at Tudu one evening, a young man, bout my age approached me. After the usual 'irey' greeting which I had become accustomed to, he still kept at my back. When I grew suspicious and gave him the quizzical look, he whispered, ‘‘Rastee. Charley, I get the stuff some ooh’’. How I wished he was referring to holy water.