The culture of dreadlocks can be found in every country in the world.
For Papua New Guinea, it has become common among young men. However, none so unique as that of Martha Tei, who has by far the longest.
Martha’s dreadlocks is 135cm, and weighs 3kg. She has been growing her locks for 15 years.
In April 2002, a young Martha had just given birth to her first child. At that time, her hair was combed out and neatly tied in a bun.
While caring for her first child, Martha says the work load became immense, and she didn’t have time for her hair. She says she was going to cut it, but than realised that her long hair was a part of her beauty, and decided instead to twist her hair, forming dreadlocks.
That was the beginning of the 15 year long relationship with her hair.
“When we were young our pearnts did most of the work, when I got married I was left with the responsible of taking care of the household to gardens, to the animal’s we had. After my son was born things became too much for me that I neglected my hair.”
“I was going to cut my hair but than I remembered that the hair is our women’s beauty, so I decided to twist it. At the time my hair was already quite lengthy.”
Martha used clay to first twist her hair, than she used sand from Wahgi river banks to strengthen the locks. Once the locks took shape, a week later, she started rubbing laundry detergent, this helped to remove the soft texture in the hair allowing the locks to stick together without it coming apart.
Every week since April 2002, what became a strategy to take her attention away from her hair, she now has to wash her hair with shampoo once evey week. Washing her hair takes 3-4 hours to dry. She also dyes the locks black every month to keep them black, and not allow the colour yellow that usually forms.
Martha says she uses up to 18 black dyes to colour all her locks. She says she must of spent thousands of kina over the 15 years.
She also has to sow thr new growth of hair onto existing locks to keep the locks neatly in shape. All this just to allow her dreadlocks to look clean and healthy.
When it comes to doing her chores, or going in to town, she tucks her locks in a scarf so they dont get in the way.
I asked if she ever feels like the locks are too heavy. She responded saying, “the locks have become a part of me, to the point were I only realise my locks are there if one comes and touches my hand. For me it’s apart of me so I feel no weight attached to it.”
She now has six children who are not allowed to pull at her locks. Her eldest son is also 15 years old, and she says he would hate to see her without dreadlocks.
I asked how long she planned on growing her hair. She laughed and said, when I die I hope they make a bilum to put my dreadlocks in to burry me with.