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“On Air” Podcast Show Ten: “Locs It To You?” © 2018 Ayesha Casely-Hayford


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About Afro Archives

Afro Archives explores heritage and identity within UK society. It investigates images of black women through promotion of self-expression and confidence to be who we naturally are. This project seeks to promote and celebrate afro hair by having inclusive discussions about hair and hair-related experiences with people of all ages, backgrounds, cultures and creeds.

Big Thanks to Wandsworth Radio, in Battersea, for hosting us. Wandsworth Radio is a local Community Radio Station. It covers Battersea, Putney, Balham, Southfields, Earlsfield, Wandsworth Town, Roehampton and Tooting. The Station exists to celebrate the borough’s greatness. “Over 300,000 people call Wandsworth home and they deserve a community radio service providing local news and other content showcasing the people who live here”.

Creator Ayesha Casely-Hayford is an actress, award-winning voice artist and employment lawyer of Ghanian descent, born in London and raised in Kent. With her roots in law, specialising in discrimination, and as former chair of the board of trustees for The Act For Change Project, a charity campaigning for greater diversity in the arts, she is uniquely positioned to see the social, performative and legal issues facing black women in the UK today.

Photo credit: Helen Murray Photography

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Show Ten Transcript 3 August 2018 Guests: Ms Audrey Odonkor https://www.linkedin.com/in/audrey-odonkor-48653682/ Audrey recently graduated from Yale University, where she studied Psychology, concentration in neuroscience. She was born in Ghana is of Ghanian descent, and currently lives and works there.

Ms Bakita Kasadha https://www.bakitakk.com/ Bakita is a workshop facilitator, key note speaker and writer. She was born in London and is of Ugandan descent. Ms Esther Rainbow https://www.linkedin.com/in/esther-rainbow-16a36b2b/ Esther is Associate General Manager in Cardiac Network Services at Barts Health NHS Trust. She was born in Kent, is of British descent, and currently lives and works in London. Ms Rebekah Bageya https://www.linkedin.com/in/rebekah-bageya-4926104a/ Rebekah is a solicitor currently based in London. Her practice covers contentious and nonspecialising in non-contentious law with a particular specialism in immigration law. Rebekah is a trustee of “Hackney Pirates”, an “enterprising charity working to develop the literacy, confidence and perseverance of young people in Hackney”. She was born in London and is of Ugandan descent. Read More: https://ayeshacasely-hayford.com/wandsworth-radio/ Listen: https://www.mixcloud.com/ayeshacaselyhayford/afro-archives-on-wandsworthradio-locs-it-to-you-show-10-with-ayesha-casely-hayford-guests/ © 2018 Ayesha Casely-Hayford


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Playlist: https://www.youtube.com/playlist? list=PLKIJpUA_vJKNINbi6nwJVnKYwxrQLqCq7&disable_polymer=true

Transcript: [Faaji intro] Hello and welcome to Afro Archives, show ten, titled, “locs it to you?”. Your hair, my hair, what we decide to do with it. Locs, one choice, does it mean anything to you? I’ve got some great guests to help us begin to enter the world of locs. Traditional locs dreadlocs, sister locs. From Ghana, Yale graduate in Psychology, concentration in neuroscience Ms Audrey Odonkor, and here in the UK, personal development trainer, poet, speaker and consultant in the HIV sector Ms Bakita Kasadha of Ugandan descent, lawyer Ms Rebekah Bageya also of Ugandan descent and Associate General Manager in Cardiac Network Services at Bart Health NHS Trust, Ms Esther Rainbow of English descent. These women have graciously, honestly and openly shared their time and wisdom to us making this show a special locs special edition allowing us each to make up our own minds, and draw our own conclusions, whilst also getting a bit of education on locs, to personally decide, “locs it to you?”, if anything and if everything. First up, to get this show started, we’ll be opening with my interview with Bakita, so here’s one of her own personal song choices to open up the show and prepare the space to welcome her. Bakita has given us her selection of songs, © 2018 Ayesha Casely-Hayford


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simply because she loves the tone of their voices. Wherever you are, relax and chill with this one, This is Hamzaa with “Stranded Love”

[song: “Stranded Love” Hamzaa]

[INTERVIEW WITH BAKITA] ACH: I don’t have locs and i’ve never thought about doing that with my hair. What was your hair like before you decided to do locs? BK: So, before, it was a little bit texturised, but I mainly kept it in a protective style, so I mainly braided my and then every so often my hair would be out for a while, between braiding. ACH: And what made you decide to stop continuing that path? BK: Erm, well, you know, I wanted to have a natural hairstyle, you know, I wanted to do something more natural and I kind of had - I was ill-advised - when I got my hair texturised I didn’t really understand what that would mean, so my hairdresser at the time, said, oh it will just make your hair a little bit softer. I was trying to stress the point that I still wanted it to be natural, like feeling and looking, and she kind of said don’t worry, it will still look natural, and be natural and feel natural. That actually, it really changed the texture of my hair. So basically what happened is, through a distrust gained through that process and through an understanding that I needed to understand my hair better rather than just seeking external advice, © 2018 Ayesha Casely-Hayford


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that was kind of like the catalyst for it. So I was still keen to have a natural hairstyle, but I knew in terms of maintenance that I didn’t want to have my fro out because I didn’t want to maintain it and do all kinds of things with it. And what kind of happened because of the spaces and events I gravitate towards, I kind of began to see more women who had sister locs and after a couple of events I went to I finally asked one of the women in the crowd, what her hairstyle was. I knew it was locs but I knew it looked noticeably different from the locs that I’m more familiar with. So she explained to me that it was sister locs and that it was a particular sort of way of locsing the hair that doesn’t involve using like any other oils of locsing gels so she gave me more information about it. Then I went and had a consultation.

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ACH: Wow. And in terms of the consultation and what that means, can you, what is it about for you to have natural hair and a natural look? BK: you know, it’s very important to me, because it’s self acceptance and it’s like, respect for my hair. There are, I’ve had many different journeys. So when I was young I was all about relaxing my hair and then it broke, because I wasn’t looking after it. If you look after your hair, when you relax it, it won’t break, or there won’t be that risk. But I personally just wasn’t looking after it, and I really relied on braids a lot and I love that hairstyle, but for me, I think I was becoming more aware of the troubling relationship I had with my hair and in terms of acceptance and accepting myself more generally I knew that I had to have a different relationship with my hair so that’s what natural, the natural hair journey, that’s why it was so important to me. And then it just so happened that I then discovered this style sister locs, but wasn’t my intention when I was thinking about getting my natural hair. ACH: Can you tell me about the consultation that you went for? BK: Yeah, so the consultation that I went for, I think I got my hair done in 2015, and the consultation I went for, was sometime, about 6 months prior. So 2014 or just at the beginning of 2015. And there was © 2018 Ayesha Casely-Hayford


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this really patient and well-informed woman, who still does my locs to this day, and she played me a video about sisterlocs and the history of it and gave me some insights. And she was like, I want you to take your time, because it’s a real journey that you’ll be going on. This is some of the information about it, think about whether you want to get sisterlocs, erm and then, we can take it from there. So I had all of the information to hand, and it wasn’t until 6 months later after really considering and thinking about it that I went back to her and said yep, I’m down for it, I want to get it done. And what I found really really interesting was that before we like fully committed and before I fully committed to changing my hairstyle, we had this sessions where she was asking how having locs might have an impact on my experience as I walk through the work, like in different settings. Like one of the things we talked about was whether or not it would impact my relationship, whether it would impact my profession if it would impact like the religious space that I was in. I wasn’t, but this was a question that she asked, I’m not religious myself, but just gave an understanding of how locs are perceived differently by different people, and have you considered how it might impact with spaces that you occupy going forwards, and I found it fascinating, because I hadn’t even thought about it. ACH: and what has been your experience? BK: you know what, largely, things haven’t really changed. And as I explained to her when she asked me those questions, I didn’t foresee any negative, sort of interaction, in my day-to-day. But the thing that I have found really interesting, is that men, particularly who are like trying to chat me up or get to know me, they respond to me very differently now. And I think there is an assumption of how I perceive blackness and I guess my locs kind of indicate who I am as a person and especially as a black woman. Sometimes I get a really good sense of the people who are being a bit more performative with it, so they’ll be like Oh, my nubian black queen, and all this stuff, and you can really tell © 2018 Ayesha Casely-Hayford


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that it’s not sincere, in the way that they’re approaching me, but it’s something that never happened before I had locs, like guys would never approach me in that way. ACH: Before you had locs? BK: yeah, before I had it, so that was the biggest change like in terms of people who already knew me, my colleagues at the time, friends, family, erm everyone else was like Oh my God, I really love my hair. And you know the thing that was really interesting about it though, is that with sister locs, the first few months are not that great, like your hair doesn’t look that good, like you have to be really patient, and it’s one of the reasons why the person who does my hair was like, ok, you need to consider this, because in the beginning you won’t be happy with your hairstyle, because it takes - it called maturation, I think that’s the term that she uses, like it takes time for the locs to mature and properly loc. So when after, about a few months people responded to my hair and it was looking great and stuff and there was like no negative thoughts and that but it was just the odd experience with these new men that would come into my life like I would maybe meet them when they would come to an event or when I was walking down the street and it was just the response there was very different to how men had approached me before which I found very very intriguing.

ACH: I loved chatting with Bakita and learnt so much from her. What raised the bar for me was when I spoke to my cousin in Ghana about her own locs, and these two women, who have never met, and live on different continents, in such different societies from each other, yet said pretty much the same thing. After this song break, we’ll be © 2018 Ayesha Casely-Hayford


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travelling for chats in East Legon, Ghana, and I’ll be introducing you to Audrey. First, some sounds from Audrey’s heart and inspiration. Here’s Haitus Kaiyote, feating q-tip, with Nakamarra.

[song: “Nakamarra” Haitus Kaiyote]

[INTERVIEW WITH AUDREY] Audrey Odonkor: I decided to locs my hair because I got tired of going to the salon to like do one hairstyle take it off, do one hair style take it off again. And I just wanted to find a way that I could keep my natural hair without adding any extensions to it for long periods of time.

ACH: And was there something that inspired you to pic locs? What is it about locs that enables you to achieve what you wanted?

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AO: Oh, there’s so much. Definitely, it’s very cool. I feel like the kinds of people that I have met in university, at Yale university in the States, who had locs, were like, people who, they were just cool, and I think, just embraced, like, unconventional ways of thinking and doing things, you know. And so, I think the kinds of people I met who had sister locs definitely inspired me to try the hairstyle out. It doesn’t necessarily mean that like if you have sister locs you are automatically cool, but I think it was definitely a self-selecting pool of people who seriously considered getting their hair locsed.

ACH: And was there anything or anyone in particularly that made you think locs would be for you?

AO: Yeah. So back in secondary school I had a friend who chose to locs her hair around that time. Partly because her mother had locs, and had had locs for a long time. Her mother is a professor in African Studies at The University, of Ghana, and I think that she was someone who I felt was very independent, very articulate, and who was unashamed to express what she thought. So seeing that, number one, this hairstyle was accepted like in academic circles, and other circles, and then seeing that it was cool, I guess [laughs] because of the kinds of people who I experienced having this, I felt inspired to start my own journey and loc my hair.

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ACH: And did you have any consultation before you locsed your hair, or did you do any research about it?

AO: Yes. I did a lot of research online. Where research was looking at people who had different locs, and, and like trying to gauge how that would suit my face, but beyond that definitely research about my hair texture and the different sizes people had based on their hair texture and talking with people who had locs about how they kept their locs. Beyond that, before locsing my hair I had to go for a compulsory consultation with the people who were going to locs the hair where they looked at my hair length, looked my hair texture, and they suggested a size that would suit my hair. That was what I did before actually locsing my hair.

ACH: And how have you found it since? How long have you had it locsed for?

AO: Oh, I’ve had it locsed for about 10 months now. And, it’s the most liberating thing. Like I can’t even express how liberating it is. Because, number one, I know that this is my hair. It makes me feel more confident. And prouder to like show my natural hair, you know? And then it’s also, as people say a lot, a journey, right. So I think that beginning with it like really thin and kind of sticking out all over the place, and then just watching how it has grown into itself and become more full has been a process of I guess maybe some kind of self-examination. Like me asking myself questions like, why would I feel maybe insecure about having shorter hair. Because prior to this time I always had very long braids. You know. Like how do I feel about my self image compared to the people that I see on TV who might have relaxed hair or a lot of weave and things like that, and it’s just been a back and forth about like was this the right decision for me, and like am I willing to stick it out to the point I believe I want to get to, just like longer and © 2018 Ayesha Casely-Hayford


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fuller. So yeah, I think that the process has been a really revealing one, of my own ideas of this, of my beauty, how beauty is perceived, and what I’m willing to do to see what, or become what I envisage myself to be or to look like.

ACH: And would you have anything to say to someone considering locsing their hair?

AO: [laughs] I would obviously say do it! Do it! But, beyond that, I would say think about why you want to do it because one of the things that I have heard a lot from people who have like found out I have locsed my hair, is like: aren’t you scared? Isn’t it permanent? Like you’re stuck with it for the rest of your life. You know. And I think to be able to confidently answer questions like that, you need to consider why you’re doing what you’re doing why you’re choosing to locs your hair. And then just go for it with confidence. I think another thing is, realise that no two hair textures are going to be exactly alike. I definitely looked at different pictures of people who had different sizes of sister locs and really wanted one over the other. But I had to come to terms with the fact that no matter how much I wanted someone’s sister locs journey or what the final product was, it was going to be very different for me. And the only way I would find out what it would look like for my hair, is by actually living it out. I think just be ok in understanding that what you see gives an idea of what it could look like but it might not necessarily be the © 2018 Ayesha Casely-Hayford


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final print of what your locsed hair will be. And, enjoy it, you know. Enjoy the process of figuring things out, enjoy the process of researching and asking people. Enjoy playing around with the idea in your head and if you want to go for it, enjoy that as well.

Just

know that it has to be something that you choose and I think that is the beauty of deciding to sister locs your hair or not, that it is something that you choose, and something that you know you will be happy with.

ACH: That was my guest Audrey Odonkor who has been sharing with us about her locs. Hello, I’m Ayesha and this is Afro Archives on Wandsworth Radio. This is our tenth afro archives show and its a special episode, all about locs, so you can decide “locs it to you’. Audrey was speak to us from East Legon in Ghana, and before that we had an introduction to locs and sister locs from Bakita Kasheda, who started her locs journey in 2015. We’ve shared bow the journey and process of locs is unique to the individual and their hair but also between London and East Legon, the power and empower sense that the choice of locs brings, is the same. Now to bring a bit of perspective to this all, I invited one of my very good friends, infact my oldest friend, who I’ve been hanging out with since I was six years old, Esther Rainbow to talk about locs to.o. Esther is of English heritage, and she chose to loc her hair a few years back, in her late teens. Esther openly discussed with me now locs are not part of her culture and shared why she made the hair decision she did and what her hair means to her now. We’re gonna go straight into Esther’s interview, then finish up with her song choice that she wanted to share with us, a bit of fun and sounds from South Africa with Ladysmith Black Mambazo stay with us.

[INTERVIEW WITH ESTHER] ACH: You had locs didn’t you? Can you just describe your hair for © 2018 Ayesha Casely-Hayford


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ER: So my natural hair is curly. It’s not a particularly strong curl, but erm, so if I tie it back the curl tends to go quite loose. Erm, but yeah it’s got like a natural curl and a natural wave and if I leave it to grow naturally, it goes into quite nice ringlets. ACH: and you’ve had dreadlocs before haven’t you? Can you tell us about that experience and why you had them and how your hair took to having dreadlocs? ER: Yeah, so I decided to get dreadlocs when I was about 18 and that was mainly because I was in kind of the alternative scene and the kind of hippy side trance scene and that kind of vibe so, erm that kind of went with that image. And I want to Camden to get my hair dreaded into locs and they spent many many hours backcombing and twisting my hair. And I wouldn’t say first of all it took amazingly. It kind of looked a bit dreadlocky and a bit fluffy and it took research, which I assume was online, because everything is online now, but I’m not even sure if it was. But anyway, and somebody that we read said if you use beeswax in your hair then it would take a bit better so for many months after that, my boyfriend at the time, would melt hot beeswax into my hair and then twist it. And after a few months of doing that, they

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kind of became solid dreadlocs, so the kind of dreadlocs that you would expect at the end and obviously they got dirtier, they took a bit more. ACH: And what do you think wearing dreadlocs did to the quality of your natural hair? ER: Erm, when I decided to get rid of them, I had to cut them off, so it wasn’t like I could salvage my natural hair from it. But the quality of my hair when I cut them off, I managed to save the first part of it, and that was fine it wasn’t damaged hair in any way. By the end of having dreadlocs I was living in Maryland, by Stratford and there was a caribbean hair place and I used to go there to get my dreads steam cleaned to try and get rid of all the smoke and the gunk that was in them and they would kind of reseal them and I think that actually made the condition of my hair much better for when I eventually got them cut off. Like my scalp was certainly healthier in a way that it wasn’t when I first got dreadlocs. So I think probably the condition of my hair, the roots were quite good but obviously the hair that was dreaded, I couldn’t un dread it once that was done. ACH: And would you ever pick dreadlocs again, as a hairstyle choice? ER: I wouldn’t now, but that’s because I don’t think it would be accepted in my area of work. So obviously as a manager, I think the expectations, of probably white people with dreadlocs, that you are probably part of a hippy scene or an alternative scene and I think there’s kind of expectations that people who have that hairstyle are probably dropouts or © 2018 Ayesha Casely-Hayford


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they don’t hold down professional job. I think I would struggle in my current job to be taken seriously, if I came with dreadlocs. ACH: And do you think that’s because you’re white? Do you think if you were black it would be the same thing? Is there a difference? ER: I think it is different. I know people that I work with that are black, and they have dreadlocs, and they tend to be very thin dreadlocs. And I think that is more accepted and I think that people see it as more a cultural thing. I think black people with dreadlocs, the people that I work with that have dreadlocs, they’re very neat, and they’re very clean. Whereas I’m not sure that white people with dreadlocs that it looks as clean, I don’t think that you can make it look as professional as maybe black people’s hair. ACH: Do you think it’s something about the natural texture? The difference in the natural texture? ER: I think it might be the natural texture, I think it’s something about the cultural understanding, I think there are assumptions made about white people with dreadlocs that aren’t made about black people with dreadlocs or that people maybe accept it as it’s been around longer and it’s not necessarily associated with a particular scene. I’m saying that and I’m obviously thinking about the Rastafari movement where dreadlocs are obviously are associated with the culture. But I do think there’s something about the texture of white hair that makes dreadlocs look a little dirtier or not as professional. © 2018 Ayesha Casely-Hayford


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ACH: I think what you’re distinguishing is between traditional dreadlocs and, like you said is normally associated with the Rastafari movement, and sister locs. Have you heard that term? ER: I’ve never heard that term no. ACH: So sisterlocs have been around for around 20 years, and they’re a trademark, and they’re smaller. So we call those sister locs. But you’ve never heard of that? ER: No, I’ve never heard of it, but now you’re saying it I know exactly what you mean. ACH: But you’d never consider that as an option for your hair, in short? ER: I think, if I could see it on a white person and see what it looked like…but I probably wouldn’t now because it took me a long time to embrace my natural, in inverted commas, hair. I hated having curly hair when I was growing up. And everyone had a Rachel from Friends blow-dried and straight, and I straightened my hair for years and I think having dreadlocs was an extension of that for me. I was not having natural hair. So I think now having natural hair, I quite like the curls, so I don’t think I would change it do dreadlocs. Thinking about it is also not something I’ve seen before. If I see it on someone and I think it looks nice, having had dreadlocs before, maybe it’s something I would consider but it’s not something that I would know what it would look like, on my hair. ACH: So in fact not having dreadlocs, or sister locs, is your step to embracing, YOUR natural hair? ER: I think so. I mean I have literally gone from curly hair, straightened hair, erm dreadlocs, bald head, you know shaved head. And only now, it’s literally as natural as it can be at the moment. It’s brown with greys and it’s curly. So I think it has been a journey for me and I’ve kind of got to the point now where I do accept my own hairstyle. But yeah, maybe later on, maybe I might want to play with it in a few years, but certainly at the moment, I finally like it, as it was supposed to be. © 2018 Ayesha Casely-Hayford


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[Song: “Diamonds on The Soles Of Her Shoes” Ladysmith Black Mambazo]

ACH: I hope you’ve turned up the volume on that absolutely classic. Thank you Esther. This is Afro Archives and we’re on our tenth show, a locs special “locs it to you?”. That was Diamonds on The Soles Of Her Shoes. a song choice from my guest Esther, of English descent, was talking about how for her knowledge of locs is not passed down, in that it’s not part of her culture. But my next guest gives us a further interesting dimension. A woman of Ugandan descent, a fellow lawyer Rebekah Bageya has had her hair in locs for seven years. But she too had to learn and discover locs, and didn’t necessarily have relevant information at her fingertips or as you’ll hear, in front of her face. But I’ll let you reach your own conclusions and connect your own dots, here’s Rebekah, and we’ll be following her interview with with her song choice from A Tribe Called Quest Stressed Out. And perhaps, yeah, lawyer to lawyer, that song choice was motivated at the time. Anyway, here’s some insights, from Rebekah.

[REBEKAH INTERVIEW] ACH: Your locs are pretty long now, about how would you say? How long do you think they are? RB: What in length? ACH: Yeah © 2018 Ayesha Casely-Hayford


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RB: That’s such a good question, I’ve never measured them in centimetres, but they are passed my shoulder, I don’t know that’s any use to you, I could certainly measure it. ACH: [laughs] How many years has that been for you? RB: It’s been seven years. ACH: And what made you decide to have locs in the first place? How was your hair pre-locs? RB: Pre locs - erm, well originally it was relaxed like many other people when were they were kind of teenagers, and then I just kind of transitioned into being natural. I just really liked the feel and texture of my natural hair, my roots at the time. And back in those days you had to be quite religious with relaxing your hair and I got a lot of comments about my re-growth and I guess it kind of started out as rebellion. ACH: Comments like what? RB: Erm, comments, just like, when are you gonna relax your hair? What are you doing with your hair? Your hair looks messy. Erm, you know. ACH: And who would give these [comments], was it family and friends or? RB: Yeah, family and friends mostly and it was people who also had relaxed hair, erm, my mum’s generation are very kind of straight hair, or pressed hair, or flat hair, and that kind of I think, I think goes back to trying to assimilate and, you know, becoming more Western and that that is the appropriate way, the presentable way to look, having straight flat hair. So I © 2018 Ayesha Casely-Hayford


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would get comments from my mum, erm, and English friends and just people in general, but I when I did not natural I realised that I braided my hair quite a bit and I realised that I loved having my hair in braids. They suited me, they were manageable. And I felt they were more versatile than what I was doing when I had my afro so I thought you know why not just get permanent braids, which would be locs, and that’s was what I did. In fact I don’t even thing, when I started my locs, that my mum even realised that I was locsing my hair, because I think if she had realised at the time. then she would have freaked out, because again it goes back to being presentable.

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ACH: Explain that a bit more, what was your mum’s issue with locs? Or, what do you think your mum’s issue would have been? RB: I think it would have been because when it comes to locs there’s still quite negative connotations with Rastafarianism, and then kind of adjacent to that comes the more negative aspects, well, not necessarily negative aspects, but a negative aspect is somebody whose unkept or you know lacks pride in their appearance, it’s just very negative things. ACH: You have sister locs, rather than traditional dreadlocks don’t you? RB: Well actually, I have, they’re not actually sister locs, and I get that a lot. I get that all the time, they’re just normal locs, like palm rolled locs, but they’re thin. ACH: Is that from consultation and relevant to your hair texture? RB: Erm. there was a form of consultation. I have to admit I was a little bit oblivious as to what was going on, I went to a hairdressers to have them installed, or get them done and they just twisted my afro hair, and I did wonder about how they were going to select the size. I didn’t want big ones, I didn’t think that would suit me, and I didn’t want teeny tiny ones, I didn’t want sister locs because I thought that would be too much maintenance. ACH: So you specifically chose not to have sister locs?

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RB: I specifically chose [not to]. Because with sister locs there’s a process of interlocing, and I didn’t think I could do that myself, you would have to go to a hairdresser and on the other spectrum I didn’t want to do free form locs, where you don’t section it and it’s not as kind strategic as what I’ve got now. That also for me is kind of, for the career that I wanted to pursue ACH: that being law RB: That being law - I just didn’t think that that would work. And I just hadn’t seen anybody with freeform locs, there wasn’t that representation of free form locs that would be a positive representation. ACH: Was there a positive representation of the tradition locs, or would you consider yourself a bit of a pioneer in that? Where was your inspiration? RB: I think, well, pioneer sounds so egotistical! I personally didn’t know anyone who had locs, there wasn’t anyone I could look at and say “Oh I want locs!”. If I saw someone on the train, or out and about, I would kind of stare, and I notice that I get that now in return. But it just wasn’t something that was around. And actually it wasn’t until quite late in my career that I saw barristers, quite senior barristers with locs, and I was flabbergasted! I was like, oh, I could have done this much earlier, I was so surprised. And the time that I did do it, when I was looking for inspiration on where to go, to do it, I erm, did a lot of googling, and I remember that one of the first [search result] places I got from it was in Camden, and it was, it wasn’t for Afro Caribbean hair. And I was really surprised. ACH: It wasn’t? RB: It wasn’t! I don’t think it was exclusively for Europeans, but it was clear that it was a place for European people or people with European hair to get locs. And I found that really confusing. And I found even if I was trying to look for pictures of people with locs,

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if you Googled at that time, when I Googled locs, or dreadlocs, I would get images of white women, white men. ACH: And when we say that time, we’re talking about like 2001? No, 2010, 2011 sorry. RB: Yeah 2010 that I was looking at it seriously, erm and 2011, when I actually did it. So yeah, around 2010. And I didn’t realise when I was [searching online] that I had to actually specify that indeed I was looking for a black woman with locs. ACH: hmmm. And what do you think about wearing locs now, in this current age, and the locs that you’ve chosen? RB: Erm, I’m really surprised at how popular locs are, in this day and age. I actually met someone today in a coffee shop, and she was just starting her locs. She’s like a month or two in and she was asking for advice and stuff. So I’m coming across it more, people who are starting locs. ACH: and is that specifically sister locs? Or more similar to your style? RB: Similar to my style, possibly thicker. Erm, I don’t really see that many sister locs like I did before, which I find interesting. Like I wonder how that’s maintained. As that can be quite expensive. I do think the locs I’ve got are easier to look after myself because you just palm roll it. But I don’t see that, or perhaps I don’t notice people with sister locs because it’s not something I personally identify with. ACH: Why do you not identify with it? What do you see as the difference? RB: I think the main difference for me, is the look of it feels, it seems a lot lighter and thiner and I think when I had relaxed hair, my issue with it, with the ends of my hair that I relaxed they were so thin and for me my hair was quite lifeless and thin. So when I do see sister locs I do associate it with a thinness. That I wouldn’t want for me. But also I’m quite low maintenance and I wouldn’t want to have to go to see someone to interloc, and I don’t think I’ve got the patience to have to learn how to interloc and do that much hair. That would be too time consuming for me. © 2018 Ayesha Casely-Hayford


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ACH: Interesting because I’ve spoken to a couple young women with sister locs and none of them have actually said anything [like that]. One of them actually chose sister locs because it’s low maintenance. No one’s actually said anything about interlocing being a challenge, in fact they’ve both commented on the thickness of their hair. So do you think there’s a hole in knowledge do you think? About [sister locs]? RB: Yeah, I think that’s definitely the case. And I didn’t know a lot. Because it wasn’t something I wanted, I didn’t research. I think it would be great to have more knowledge about these things. It’s probably out there, I’m just not aware of it. ACH: Well you don’t need to, because obviously your hair is set, and you’ve made that choice. RB: Yeah. ACH: And do you still fee your hair represents you, and that choice, and what you wanted for your hair? RB: Absolutely, I definitely still get asked questions like would you ever cut them off? What if you wanted to do something different with it? I get asked that at least, you know, a few times a year. And I’m always really quite firm in that, I’m happy, they still suit me, I made the right choice. And also it was quite a journey just starting the process because they were quite short. And the reaction and responses I got when they were really short. And having to develop my personality and develop my confidence to © 2018 Ayesha Casely-Hayford


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deal with that. And as I’ve gone along on like my locs journey, quote unquote, I would say that I still am learning how to care for them, I’m becoming less high maintenance about them. I think there was a period at one time where it was important to always retwist your roots and it was like a similar pressure to maintain when I used to relax my hair and I’ve kind of rebelled against that now and I don’t twist my hair as often as I used to. ACH: And have you noticed a change of acceptability in the workplace? Has it become more acceptable? RB: yeah, definitely. It has I think. I’m still conscious of when it’s looking, like I still have to be conscious of making sure it’s neat. So if I’m going to interviews, if I’m going to court, I won’t wear my locs down, generally. I think sometimes that can be distracting, and it becomes too much of a focal point. So if I put it more in a corporate type bun. People can associate elegance with it a lot easier and it’s less distracting, I still feel like I have to play the part in certain settings, which is a shame, but, you know, for what I do, I don’t want my hair to be a distraction, I don’t want that to be the first thing that people kind of focus on. I want to try and get them to focus on what I’m saying, or what I’m doing. ACH: And just to finish up, as far as how your hair as it is now, does it make you feel a certain way, if you can compare it to pre-locsing? RB: Oh definitely. I think I noticed it, when I started getting my confidence, from me, and not from other people, when it did start getting longer, I would get noticed in a positive way, like I would get called things like Empress. And I first it was a bit weird, but now I love it. And, I feel quite empowered by my locs, and I love that I’ve got natural hair, and I love that it can be as low maintenance as I want it to be or that I can make it as elaborate as I want it to be. Yeah I love everything about it and I would definitely say it’s been empowering for me, the whole process from the start to where I am now. And even now I’m getting a few greys, and I’m quite exited about whether, you know, how I’ll © 2018 Ayesha Casely-Hayford


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grey, in terms of locs, like which patches it will start in. And I think that can be quite an empowering process in itself as well.

ACH: Ladies and gentlemen, that is the end of Afro Archives Show 10. Thank you to my guests Bakita, Audrey, Esther and Rebekah and thank you Nicolette who preceded me with Mind Your Business. And here is Stressed Out, featuring Faith Evans. A Tribe Called Quest:

[Song: “Stessed Out” feat. Faith Evans. Tribe Called Quest].

Bed Music: Intro “Faaji” from Lo-Wu https://soundcloud.com/lowusounds

References & Links: https://www.ebony.com/style/natural-hair-now-the-difference-between-sisterlocks-andtraditional-locs-942

http://www.sisterlocks.com/finding-a-consultant.html

http://www.sisterlocks.com/faq-for-beginners.html

© 2018 Ayesha Casely-Hayford

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