6 January 2005

Botswana: The White Rastaman Comes to Town

At the Gaborone Main Mall people could not hide their surprise on seeing him. They could not get their eyes off him. They were perhaps murmuring and asking themselves; "how could a white man grow dreadlocks", a hairstyle associated with thuggish black people.

Some even yelled "Jah Man" at the charismatic 23-year-old Sire Incisd from a distance and he would respond with the same slogan. The US Peace Corps from Louisiana is doing voluntary work in Zambia and was in Botswana for New Year holidays after spending some time in Malawi and Mozambique. He says he has been surprised by the peaceful people he met in all the African countries he toured. "I am surprised people in Africa are more peaceful than I had expected. The people here are all beautiful and the town is more like our towns in the US, and the difference is that the place here is tidier than some of the towns back home," he said referring to the Main Mall.

He was surprised that what he had experienced is in contrast to what he grew up knowing about Africa. "In the US, many if not all television programmes about Africa are about civil wars, killings, people carrying guns in the streets, images of starving people and others dying whom we are told are AIDS victims. I just can't believe what I am seeing, all women are beautiful and I wish I could take two of them with me home," he said jokingly.

Incisd has lived in the remote Lusindi area in Zambia for the past 18 months educating people on health and hygiene issues.

"I love Africa because the people here are cool and are still attached to their roots. In Zambia where I am staying, I live in a mud hut with no water or electricity and I fetch water from a very far away source and the experience is incredible," he said with enthusiasm. "The people there still eat their staple food with bare hands and they still walk around barefooted. They still perform rituals and their employment and way of life is farming," he said.

He added that he developed an attachment Rastafarianism from childhood and he grew the dreadlocks a few years back. However the funny side of the white Rastaman is that he neither believes in Jah nor Haile Selassie.

"I am not too religious and I believe in neither of the main names in all religions. I am also not deep into Rasta but I believe in some of their principles such as not drinking beer; not eating meat because I hate to kill; and loving peace. The other reason I do not eat meat is that in America, we subsidise farming, a thing that hurts economies of developing countries, who could export their products to developed countries without having to face stiff competition from our farmers."

He said that his friends and the people back home despise him for his dreadlocks. Some tell him that he is silly and has lost his mind and that he would never get a job with his hairstyle. "My parents do not have any problem with my dreadlocks and they always advice me to take care of myself."

He said that he only heard about Botswana for the first time in Zambia.

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