Legendary trumpeter Hugh Masekela caused a stir at Rhodes University when he refused to take pictures with girls donning weaves or hair extensions.
“You’re lucky that you were sneaky enough to have him take a picture of you next to me, otherwise I would have refused. I don’t take pictures with girls who have your kind of hair,” Masekela told a student who had taken a picture with him, according to student journalist Sanele Ntshingana.
Masekela also railed against weaves and hair extensions at a press conference.
“We spend about a billion rand on other people’s hair each year. I don’t even know where to begin on this issue,” said Masekela, who was at the university to receive an honorary doctorate.
Masekela, who was given a standing ovation, delivered an address which focused on his disdain for the youth’s dwindling sense of heritage. Among his issues were indigenous languages, storytelling and music, but his position on hair was perhaps the most provocative.
Masekela was described by some audience members as being “irritable” and “condescending”, while others appreciated his direct approach. On the subject of student activism and the removal of colonial statues, Masekela was dismissive, saying that the youth should focus on “bigger problems”, like poverty, inequality and crime.
The honorary doctorate from Rhodes University is the fourth such honour for Masekela.