Children born with dreadlocks are believed to be special, have spiritual capabilities and extreme strength. Called Dada by the Yorubas and Elena (translated to mean Child King”, a name given to them largely due to the nature of their hair which is likened to a crown and also because of the belief of toughness such children possess) by the Igbos, Dada children are fragile and need serious care in their formative years.
The Igbos observe many traditional rules when dealing with a dada. For instance, it is believed that when the hair of a dada child is combed or cut, the child would fall very sick and could even die.
Apart from the mother of a dada, no other person must touch the hair of these children. If any other person mistakenly touches the hair, he or she must give money to the child or tie a cowry to their locks to prevent them from falling ill. In ancient times, Nigerian families believe that their Dada children are gods and offer them to shrines.
Their fate now rests in the chief priest. Some do not shave their dreadlocks till death and even take over from the chief priests in the even of their death.
With the proliferation of Christianity across Nigeria, many families did away with this practice though some Christian groups like the Aladura still practice the act of Dada as a Nazarine rite.
Shaving a dada’s hair must, however, be accompanied with a special ritual which is usually performed by the chief priest presiding over the child. In recent times, Christian parents would rather have a prophet or priest to do the shaving.
These days, youths are also increasingly locking their hair and hence it is generally hard to even distinguish a natural born dada and a made one. However, no matter the artificial transformation, there is no denying that those born with natural dreadlocks hold a strong spiritual and traditional significance in the Nigerian society.
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