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October 21, 2018

Once shunned as the reserve of crooks, dreadlocks are now the in-thing

Galiwango Paul styles his dreadlock client at his salon in Mombasa.
Galiwango Paul styles his dreadlock client at his salon in Mombasa.

When you walk in the streets, not go a day would go by without you seeing several people with dreadlocks. This hairdo has come from far.

In the past, dreadlocks were associated with raggedness, madness and criminal habits. So a person wearing dreads was stigmatised and feared.

These days, dreadlocks can be styled so nicely, someone can even wear them to the office.

They are also liked because they are unisex, both men and women can keep dreadlocks.

The Guinness Book of Records lists Asha Mandela, a US citizen, as the person with the longest dreadlocks.

It, however, no longer records the longest dreadlocks, as people tend to put extensions on their natural locks, making it hard to know the natural longest dreadlocks from fake ones.

Mandela is famously known as the black Rapunzel, probably because of her hair, which she sometimes carries on her back as if she is carrying a baby.

Her locks are at 92ft, with about 31 years of growing and maintaining as a baby, as she likes calling them.



For locks to look nice, they need a lot of maintenance. For insights on this, we meet Galiwango Paul, a specialist in dreadlock making and designing, at his salon at the Mombasa CBD, busy attending to his client.

To him, one should be passionate about keeping dreadlocks if they are to look nice and adorable.

Per day, he receives more than eight clients, mostly women. He charges from as low as Sh500 up to Sh7,000, depending on how you want your dreadlocks done.

He advises on proper maintenance of the locks for them to look beautiful and stunning. This includes washing and moistening.  

Frequent visits to the salon would greatly help, he says. For those with softer hair, he advises visiting the salon once a week, while those with extremely kinky hair can visit the salon after two weeks.

He said dreadlocks represent African culture, as they are natural.

 “Dreadlocks are natural in that nothing is added to your hair. It therefore brings out that African culture,” he said.



Even though they have been accepted by many, Paul says some parents still do not agree to their children having them.

“Stigmatisation is still there,” he said.

Paul not only makes dreadlocks, he keeps dreadlocks himself.

He says he can do his own hair but would need some assistance, as some styles would be hard for him to make on his own head.

As a staunch Christian, he faces challenges when going to church every Sunday, as some have not yet accepted these locks.

“Knowing God is all in the heart,” Paul says. “Do not judge a person by their looks or the way they have dressed.”



Paul not only specialises in dreadlocks. In his salon, known as ‘Salon Paul’, he also receives clients who want their nails made and eyebrows done.

It has been seven months now since he opened his business, and he is forever grateful to God for his success.

“Do not fear starting small,” he advised fellow businesspeople. “Do not compare yourself to others. Be yourself. You must therefore put God first.”

He discourages using other means to keep your business going and forgetting that God exists.

“Your business will never fail through God,” he advises.



At Enhance Beauty Salon, we meet Jane Mwende, an employee and dreadlock stylist.

She says these days, dreadlocks are in demand, and she does not go a day without getting a client. The hairstyle is more popular among women than men, she adds.

As to why many people are adopting the hairstyle, Mwende says it’s because it minimises hair breakage. Other hairstyles require frequent combing, which dreadlocks don’t need.

In the salon, they charge Sh3,000 if it is a fresh start and Sh1,000 if it is retouch.

Mwende says visits to the salon have to be frequent for the dreads to look beautiful and elegant.

She advises visiting after two weeks, but it would also depend on the hair texture, as soft hair would require more visits than hard hair.



Benta Aoko has kept dreadlocks for three years now, and she loves them a lot.

She says she never regrets her decision and would want to keep them forever. She rarely styles them, saying she likes them loose and free.

Her motivation for having dreadlocks was that she liked her hair natural, and tried keeping it short for a while.

“Everybody said it makes me look younger, and that to me was not flattering at all. So I settled on dreadlocks,” Aoko says.

It took four months for her dreads to lock up tight. She says it is quite difficult at first, to the point you would give up on them if you are not patient enough.

“My mum hates them and wishes that I would shave them down. She thinks it is the reason a man has not approached me for marriage,” Aoko says, laughing out loud.

Luckily, all her other acquaintances have no problem with the locks, and her mother has learnt to accept them because they are there to stay.

Aoko has become an inspiration to three of her cousins, who have also decided to lock their hair.

Francis Baya, a toy vendor, has had his for three years.

He said he does not see the need to visit the salon as he makes them himself, therefore saving his cash.

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