Don’t call me Mungiki.

I sport a style of hair that has over the course of history been associated with as diverse groups as pharaohs, royalty, and nobility, to religious leaders and sects, armed forces, and militias. The history of this style of hair is deep, long, and rich. As recently as the past century, Maasai morans and warriors wore red locks as a sign of their age and status. It is only within the past 80 years of so that the nature of this hairstyle has been tarnished and relegated to the very bottom of social desirability.

To begin with, the militant section of the Kenya Land and Freedom Army, the MauMau, decided that they would use locked hair as a sign of their commitment to the struggle and as a mark of recognition. Thus, the British imperialist, in his fight against the MauMau and Kenyan liberators demonized the group and the style of hair that they chose to adorn. Hence, the hatred for the  MauMau and the locked hair that they wore was entrenched with the administrative, political, economic, and socio-cultural systems that they controlled. Those closest to the white men, that is, the collaborators, homeguards and the ilk, were the first to adopt and embody this hatred. Forward to 1963, and it is the same homeguards and collaborators that inherited the wheels of power, thus perpetuating the hatred for not only the MauMau, but all that they stood for and represented. Which is why the MauMau was an illegal organization up until the Kibaki government, circa 2003/2004.

On to the Mungiki, a militia that gained ground primarily in Central province during the early 2000s. Although its impact was felt in some parts of Nairobi and Rift Valley, it is far from the worst militia to have roamed the country. Furthermore, there have been over 500 militia groups throughout the history of this country, some of which have had a markedly devastating effect on the Kenyan people. Therefore, the fact that the Mungiki opted for locked hair as an identifier does not reflect on the status of all those Kenyans who also wish to wear such hair.

Finally, the Rastas – the group which in the modern world is most closely associated with the locked hairstyle. The fact that so many people globally identify such style of hair with Rastafari speaks more to the strength of the Jamaican, Reggae and Rasta cultures. It is a fact that certain Hindu monks and priests have been wearing locked hair for thousands of years now, but how many people know about them? Quite few, and primarily those who read – widely.

All in all, this often-repeated notion and idea that people with locked hair are deviants, lowly of character, dangerous, crafty, ill-willed and such should immediately be dispelled. It is a colonial ideal imposed on us and now repeated so often that is thought to be common knowledge. We are a people with amnesia. If only our African history survived over the years, but it did not. Hence, it is vital, crucial for our progress that we question authority. For if we blindly swallow all ‘authoritative’ information thrown at us, we shall be enslaved to concepts that drive us to our ruin as a human race.

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