Africans have rid themselves of many vestiges of British colonial rule. But perplexingly, there’s one symbol that African courts refuse to let go: those white wigs.
The Washington Post reports that a new generation of African judges are raising questions about wearing the horsehair locks, which British judges began wearing in the 1600s and cost about $6,500 to make today.
Judges and lawyers in several former British colonies, including Kenya, Zimbabwe and Ghana, continue to don the wigs, which British barristers don’t wear anymore. Former White British colonies, Canada and Australia, also inherited the wigs but are ending the tradition, The Post noted.
The white wig, and other attire such as red robes, are symbols of British authority. British judges “were sometimes brutal” in how they administered justice in their Black colonies. So, why are Africans clutching to this symbol of White oppression?
Isaac Okero, president of the Law Society of Kenya, defends the colonial wigs.
“I don’t feel at all that it has any negative connotation of colonialism. It has risen beyond that. It is a tradition of the Kenyan bar,” he told The Post.
However, Arnold Tsunga, director of the Africa program at the International Commission of Jurists, told the newspaper that the wigs are “a disgrace to the modern courts of Africa.”
According to Tsunga, the real reason that dictators like Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, who is among the most zealous anti-colonialists, supports the wigs goes deeper than tradition.
“We are seeing post-independence African states trying to maintain these symbols of power and authority in the belief that it will help entrench themselves,” he stated to The Post.
SOURCE: Washington Post