Dreads. Jatta. Ndiagne. Palu. Natty, knotted, ropelike locks. Curly knobs, tiny plaits, intricate weaves. Dreads are a modern phenomena with roots that reach as far back as the fifth century. According to ancient Hindu beliefs, dreadlocks signified a singleminded pursuit of the spiritual. Devotion to God displaced vanity, and hair was left to its own devices. In the West, locks are a relatively recent fashion, born of the Black Power movement of the sixties and the infiltration of reggae into popular music.
In "Dreads," photographers Francesco Mastalia and Alfonse Pagano capture the rebels of this natural hair revolution in all their beautiful, subversive glory. One hundred duotone portraits present dread-heads from all walks of life: a Brooklyn postal worker, a Japanese farmer, an Indian sadhu, a Jamaican drummer. Interviewed on location by the photographers, jatta-wearers from around the world wax philosophic about the integrity of their hair, and every stunning image confirms their choice. In her introduction, Alice Walker offers lyrical ruminations about her decision to let her own mane mat.
Today, trendsetters in Tokyo pay thousands of yen to have their poker-straight hair literally drilled into locks. The fact that the young and hip now go to such extremes to imitate what was originally a statement against artificiality proves the growing popularity of dreads. From a nappy-topped newborn to a Rastafarian elder with hair roped around his waist, "Dreads" rejoices in the essence of the individual, set free by an organic explosion of hair.