28 December 2012

Uganda: Are Players With Dreadlocks Indecent?

One of New Vision's readers early this December wrote in, suggesting that the Uganda national soccer team - Uganda Cranes - should have a decent hairstyle.

The writer, James William Mugeni, is a student of Mulago national referral hospital in Kampala.

He shared his view as thus:

"I might be thought to be old-fashioned but I would like New Vision readers to share some experience with me. As a student at Mulago Hospital, I attended a ward round where a South African student was the patient under study on the ward where I was.

The doctor in charge of the ward round looked at the hairstyle of the patient and asked us what we thought the patient was suffering from. The patient had dreadlocks.

This alone made us and the doctor to immediately think of drug abuse. The doctor told us that more often than not, an unkempt appearance always suggested disease related to drug abuse. The doctor was right about this patient who actually died of drug intoxication.

That said, I have seen footballers in Uganda with similar hairstyles. I wonder whether the doctor who left a lasting impression on us would not call our footballers unkempt!

Our national team would certainly be regarded as unkempt and any of the members could be rightly or wrongly diagnosed as a drug addict! Who is to blame?

Every team has a uniform to ensure the members can distinctly be identified. I admired the Kenyan team because they have the same hairstyle- clean heads as compared to our boys with all colours of hair-do.

The coach, Bob Williamson, appears very smart in suits. I suggest that the Cranes should have a decent and uniform hairstyle. That is what makes a team."

TRAINING SESSION: Cranes player Moses Oloya carries Brian Umony through a drill ahead of a Nations Cup tie against Zambia. The two dreadlocked players are top performers on the national team. PHOTO/Mpalanyi Ssentongo.

In response to Mugeni's letter, another reader - who remained anonymous - wrote in, with an argument that Mugeni's analysis of the Cranes players' hairstyle was simplistic and biased.

He argued:

"Mugeni made a number of unrelated observations to make biased and worrying conclusions. I would like to comment on the following points:

Mugenis' obsevations were superficial. He tells a story of a South African student who, sadly, died of drug overdose and proposes -under the tutelage of the doctor in charge -that the students' dreadlocks were a dead giveaway of the patient's condition! I would like to think that the aim of the doctor in charge of the ward, at which Mugeni undertook his training, was to encourage students to learn to make in-depth observations as opposed to superficial ones. I am certain that there were more conclusive symptoms of drug use;

I have had the chance to interact with various professionals, including civil activists, accountants, bankers and IT specialists who wear dreadlocks. Contrary to Mugeni's suggestion, these high performing individuals are neither unkempt nor drug users;

I find it worrying that a person who attended medical school chooses to base his argument on a dogma (belief without proof) about dreadlocks, especially since medical practitioners are held in high regard in society. Medical practitioners are creative thinkers whose conclusions are based on concise observation;

Hairstyle, like many forms of fashion, is a result of choice and individual expression. While Mugeni cannot be castigated for his aversion to dreadlocks (and any other hairstyle that he does not favour), as it does not appeal to his chosen form of fashion expression, I find his suggestion of a defined "smartness" rather shallow;

Having dreadlocks does not mean one is unkempt. Dreadlocks like any other hairstyle should be kept clean neat and tidy.

Back to football. As an avid football fan I have noticed that world over, the most creative and sought-after players express their individualism in a variety of ways that include but are not limited to hairstyle and body ornamentation. As far as I am aware, there is no proven relationship between hairstyle, work ethic and positive attitude."

With that said, what do you think? What is your say on the two sets of argument around wearing dreadlocks and one's profession? Do you have dreadlocks, or do you have any association with a person who wears dreadlocks? Have your say.

Compiled by Joseph Kizza.

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