Wednesday May 23, 2018

Dreadlocks: Finding a connection between Rastas and Sadhus

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By Archana Rao

What comes to your mind when one says ‘Dreadlocks?’ Bob Marley, Sadhus, marijuana, or chillum are the things that strike the mind instantaneously.

But there is more to it than what meets the eye. It took three years for French anthropologist Dr. Lina Ainouche to bring in and explain the history of dreadlocks and how the Jamaican Rastas and the Indian Sadhus share the unconventional fondness for this hairdo.

She spoke exclusively to NewsGram on her journey to make the documentary on Jamaican Rastas and the importance of dreadlocks.

Archana Rao: Linda, why did you choose to make a documentary on the life of Jamaican Rastas?

Dr. Linda: I have a few Rasta friends, and also having stayed in Jamaica for few years, I felt the need to tell the story of Rastafaris to the world. This is something that has never been shown. The Rasta movement began as slavery progressed in the early 20th century. Their culture was suppressed by brutal and stultifying European domination. Rastafari was an attempt to ensure the survival of African culture and an upfront anti-slavery, anti-colonial, and anti-imperialist struggle.

Archana Rao: So how did you come across this uncanny relation between India and Jamaica?

Dr. Linda: I stayed in India in 2001 and studied Jainism for a couple of years in the country. So I am familiar with the Indian culture. During the research process for my documentary, I discovered the roots of similarities between Rastas and Hindus. It goes as far as cuisines, way of life, spirituality, and even the dreadlocks. Indian Sadhus also wear their hair in dreadlocks.

If we look at the history of the two countries, the British colonists ruled in Jamaica until 1962 and in India until 1947. Indian workers were brought to the island from 1845 to 1917. Both Afro-Jamaicans and Indians were kidnapped and sent to work on sugar and banana plantations throughout Jamaica where they created positive relationships through their common oppressive hardships. This is when the two cultures came close to each other.

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Archana Rao: How did dreadlocks became a part of the Rastafari movement?

Dr. Linda: During 1960’s, the Jamaican Rastas started wearing their hair in tangled locks and they grouped in a self-sustaining community near Kingston, the capital city popularly known as Pinnacle. The hairdo evolved as a way to express a more natural lifestyle and to go against the British establishment.

Archana Rao: So what does the documentary focus on?

Dr. Linda: I wanted to narrate the story of Rastafaris, their history, and the importance of dreadlocks in their cultures. The culture originated to stand tall as an anti-slavery and anti-suppressant movement.

Rastas were persecuted because of dreadlocks. It holds a great significance in their culture. Dreadlocks are a way of life, it is like a body art. It took us 3-4 years to complete the documentary. We did shooting in Jamaica, India, Paris, and New York with four different languages (French, Hindi, Jamaican Patois, and English) and four local crews.

Archana Rao: What all problems did you come across while shooting in India?

Dr. Linda: It wasn’t really tough shooting in India. People were more than happy to assist us with the shooting. The only problem we faced was the tough battle against mosquitoes.

Archana Rao: But dreadlocks are still considered a taboo in India, a style mostly carried by the Sadhus. It has not been widely accepted amongst the common crowd. Do you think this will change in near future?

Dr. Linda: In Jamaica, dreadlocks have become a common factor. Earlier Rastas were prosecuted due to dreadlocks by their own society. Now the scenario has completely changed. People have accepted it as a way of life. But I can’t say the same for India. Youngsters do sport dreadlocks but mundane beliefs still revolve around the hairstyle. The outlook of the society towards it needs to change. Maybe it will happen in another eight or ten years.

Archana Rao: So when are you planning to release the documentary in India?

Dr. Linda: We are in the phase of post-production of the documentary right now. We are trying to translate it in other languages such as Spanish and French. Maybe in 6-8 months we will release it in India as well.

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The Hindu American Foundation (HAF) is a non-partisan advocacy organization for the Hindu American community.
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ABOUT HAF

The Hindu American Foundation (HAF) is a non-partisan advocacy organization for the Hindu American community. The Foundation educates the public about Hinduism, speaks out about issues affecting Hindus worldwide, and builds bridges with institutions and individuals whose work aligns with HAF’s objectives. HAF focuses on human and civil rights, public policy, media, academia, and interfaith relations. Through its advocacy efforts, HAF seeks to cultivate leaders and empower future generations of Hindu Americans.

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The Hindu American Foundation is not affiliated with any religious or political organizations or entities. HAF seeks to serve Hindu Americans across all sampradayas (Hindu religious traditions) regardless of race, color, national origin, citizenship, caste, gender, sexual orientation, age and/or disability.