Someone recently asked me: “Why do Muzungu women like dating Rastas?”
If you want to know what’s really going on in mixed relationships, tell me what you think of this one? Some of the experiences shared our explicit.
I’d never really considered Muzungu / Ugandan relationships in that light, and then I thought – with a pang – of the guy I’d been seeing on and off for a year. At the time it never occurred to me he fitted into that category. It ended disastrously – but it had its moments.
THANK YOU: This article was originally commissioned by Arnie Petit, Editor of Empazi Magazine. Thanks for believing in me Arnie. I hope we get a chance to work together again in the future.
So what did I like about Dr Rasta?
In a (mostly) conservative country like Uganda, you’re often judged on your appearance. If you don’t fit in with the status quo, people are going to comment. Perhaps that’s why I like the Rasta look on some men: I like a man who’s not afraid to stand up for himself when challenged.
In Uganda, Rastas or ‘Rasta lookalikes’ symbolise non-conformism. To us Westerners, that can be hot! – we come from societies where self-expression through your personal image is quite normal, encouraged even.
In Uganda, most people agree that Rastas are “either artists, layabouts or career Muzungu daters.” But are those the real Rastas or just the cosmetic variety?
What is a Rasta really?
Rasta refers (incorrectly) to “any person having dreadlocks.”
“True Rastafarians believe that Ethiopia’s Emperor Haile Selassie a.k.a. Ras Tafari was the second coming of Christ. Rastafarianism is a common religion amongst black Jamaicans and deeply rooted in African culture. Rastas eat a diet of vegetables, fruit and fish and keep their bodies, mind and soul healthy by staying active in global issues. To be Rastafarian you don’t have to be black; in fact Rastafarianism has to come from the heart. A Rasta does not cut his hair. Rastas are famous for smoking marijuana as a symbol of religious practice.”
Real Rastas – of which there are very few in Uganda it seems – do not touch alcohol.
So for the sake of this article, I have thrown the cosmetic and the real into one big cultural melting pot. Real Rastas, please do not take offence. I echo the sentiments of this guy, who said: “Come on people, think about it before you all start judging dem Rastas. RASTA IS SWEET, COOL, CALM AND COLLECTED WITH A SENSE OF TLC (tender loving care) AND REALITY. The beer thing, hehehe too funny… real Rasta don’t drink…”
What do you say Muzungu ladies?
I’ve spent the last few weeks pondering this question and asked girlfriends why do white women go for Rastas? I posted this same question on Facebook – and then it got interesting!
“Date a Rasta? Ugh, no way! You must be joking – you don’t know what’s living in that hair!” Julia said.
Anja echoed my thoughts: “Rastas are generally a lot more liberal than most Ugandans. They’re less conservative.”
To some women, Rastas represent the exotic. Having dreadlocks or being dark-skinned does not define your “Africaness” – but maybe the ‘first time to Africa’ Muzungu hasn’t worked that out yet?
On Facebook, Tio commented “It’s all about perceptions of “exoticness”, which is why you have Bazungu women falling all over themselves for Masaai men, drape, spear and all.”
One attraction of the Rasta is that they’re easy for us Bazungu to recognise them. Why? Because with their shaved heads, every Ugandan man can look the same from a distance – at least when you first arrive in the country. The Rastas stand out, they are easy to spot in the crowd. We don’t have the embarrassment of mistaking one black face for another!
Personally, I like big hair anyway (I guess us white ladies are used to guys with hair!)
After four years, each black face is as different to me as every white one but when I first came to Uganda, I couldn’t remember who was who. I would try and remember each lady by their hairstyle. “Rose has a red bob, Sarah has a weave. Got it!” That didn’t help much, as I soon learned Ugandan ladies like to DRAMATICALLY change their hairstyle every couple of weeks!
Back to dem Rastas and, when I asked a male Ugandan friend why do white women go for Rastas? He said “I have the answer and I know I’m right.”
“These Rasta guys have a lot of time on their hands. They don’t work. He’s got plenty of time to show her the sights and show her around. The conversation might not be meaningful but that’s not what either of them is after. These guys know how to play the game,” my male friend said. “They’ll learn how to dance, they’ll learn how to make love.
The Muzungu lady often falls in love with the Rasta. He’ll say he loves her. She’ll then spend the next couple of years going backwards and forwards between Uganda and her home country trying to keep the relationship alive. These girls come and go. There’s always a new supply coming through and any bad behaviour can be forgotten (by him at least) when she leaves the country.”
As one person neatly summed up, “The thing about a Muzungu-Rasta relationship is that it is so disposable.”
Jane, who has several years experience managing volunteers in Uganda, gave her opinion on why Muzungu girls like Rastas:
“Rastas know where the parties are. They tend to hang out in a ‘posse’ so hooking up with a Rasta = instant friends. We know Rastas have essentially unlimited experience with little white girls, so they know how to talk to them. There are no awkward silences. Rastas do not care how dirty the girl’s feet are, or the last time she showered. They only care about whether or not she is buying him beer.
Jane added “They (and many African men) can talk your pants off. Even if you are unattractive by your culture’s standards, they will make you feel like the most beautiful person in the world.”
One Ugandan male advised “if you are gonna hit on a mzungu girl in Uganda, never wear a freaking tie or talk about your big meetings.” He asks “why do mzungu ladies stay clear of corporate/learned Africans? I have ever hit on a mzungu chick before, but I was either too smart an African or I was not talking dumb enough. It is my unschooled and unkempt Rasta friend who scored.”
Does the Rasta Muzungu relationship start with drugs?
“Most ‘zungu babes I know smoke weed… [the ones this Facebooker knows anyway!] … their suppliers happen to be Rastafarians, I guess one thing leads to another …”
This Muzungu’s theory is that black, white or brown – ‘girls like a bad boy’ – and in this case Rastas often fit the bill (superficially at least). That’s why the Muzungu girls are going with them rather than the corporate Ugandans. If a white girl’s dating a corporate Ugandan, hell she might as well just date a corporate guy from back home. (Where’s the excitement in that?)
Also on Facebook, Richard adds that the Muzungu girls “think that all Rastas have big Mandingo dicks and last for hours. Whether true or not, Rastas live up to the bad boy reputation with drugs and alcohol binges that, rather incongruously, make them attractive to Beckies traipsing aimlessly around Africa looking for adventure they can’t find back home.” Just say it like it is Richard!
So would this Muzungu lady date a Rasta?
Despite the bullshit, the sweet talk and the dance moves can be very seductive.
I’d go in with my eyes open (and condoms on!) and an absolute certainty that I’m just one of a number he’s playing with. To entertain any other idea is craziness. Exceptions may exist – but my advice? Enjoy the moment, but don’t kid yourself you’ve found the only faithful “Rasta.” So tell me your experience – anonymously if you like! – what’s the attraction between Muzungu women and Rastas?
So tell me your experience?
What did I say to Julia?
After one dating disaster too many I joked that “if another guy with dreadlocks wants to date me, the first thing he has to do is shave his head.” Next in my dating series: Downtown dreadlocks. The muzungu’s blind date.