RASTAFARI: A misunderstood way of life

| December 7, 2012

The Rastafari movement, or Rasta, is a spiritual movement. It arose in the 1930s in Jamaica, a country with a predominantly Christian culture where 98% of the people were the black African descendants of slaves.

Donisha receiving questions

Its adherents worship Haile Selassie I, Emperor of Ethiopia (ruled 1930–1974), as Jesus incarnate, the Second Advent, or the reincarnation of Jesus. Members of the Rastafari movement are known as Rastas, or Rastafari.

Director Stuart Samuels listening attentively to questions

The movement is sometimes referred to as “Rastafarianism”, but this term is considered derogatory and offensive by some Rastas, who, being highly critical of “isms” (which they see as a typical part of “Babylon culture”), dislike being labelled as an “ism” themselves.

Question posed by member of the audience

The name Rastafari is taken from Ras Tafari, the pre-regnal title of Haile Selassie I, composed of Amharic Ras (literally “Head”, an Ethiopian title equivalent to Duke), and Haile Selassie’s pre-regnal given name, Tafari. Rastafari are generally distinguished for asserting the doctrine that Haile Selassie I, the former and final Emperor of Ethiopia, is another incarnation of the Christian God, called Jah.

Question posed by member of the audience

Most see Haile Selassie I as Jah or Jah Rastafari, who is the second coming of Jesus Christ onto the earth, but to others he is simply God’s chosen king on earth. Courtesy Wikipedia

Congratulations expressed by member of the audience

The world’s most prolific advocate of Rastafari was arguably Robert Nesta Marley, affectionately known as Bob Marley, a flamboyant mixed race and talented mucisian from St Ann Jamaica who was the son of Norval Sinclair Marley, a white Englishman and Cedelia Booker, a black Jamaican woman.

Of the twelve children, Sharon Marley who was the biological daughter of Rita Marley was adopted by Bob, and a highly talented singer herself begat Donisha Prendergast.

Sharon a singer, dancer, and curator was in the group Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers along with her young sister and brothers. With the group, she has won three Grammy awards.

Question posed by member of the audience

Donisha one of four children is the eldest granddaughter of Bob and Rita Marley and a self-proclaimed ‘Gypsy’. She is a Rastafarian and a skillful filmmaker. Her documentary “RasTa: A Soul’s Journey” is currently touring Britain and CaribDirect.com was fortunate to witness her very passionate presentation.

RasTa: A Soul’s Journey unfolds as a personal odyssey that challenges the often cartoon perception of Rastafarians, and focuses on putting the story and the message of this movement into a personal and global perspective. Donisha’s film odyssey, therefore, is both personal and historical, as she balances revelations about Rastafari with self-discovery.

It moves away from the more familiar images of Jamaica, towards the various ways in which this movement has gone beyond the tiny Caribbean Island. It reveals the ways in which the message of Rastafari has manifested itself in diverse cultures, how the tenants of Rastafari are rooted in history and how they are made relevant to contemporary issues. The film’s narrative unfolds as a voyage of discovery, driven by Donisha’s intense desire to understand the past and make a clear meaning of the present.

Question posed by member of the audience

RasTa: A Soul’s Journey features interviews with British/Jamaican writer and dub poet Benjamin Zephaniah, who is strongly influenced by the music and poetry of Jamaica and what he calls “street politics”; Reggae artist and successful entrepreneur Ras Levi-Roots, a Rastafarian who stands for peace, love and harmony amongst all people; Bob Marley’s youngest son Damian Marley; and Dr. Jake Homiak, curator of the exhibit Discovering Rastafari at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institute.

Following the very informative documentary which also chronicled the origins of Rastafari making reference to the three mansions of Rastafari Nyahbinghi, the Bobo Ashanti and the Twelve Tribes of Israel and detailing the significance of  Haile Selassie I, Emperor of Ethiopia (ruled 1930–1974), as Jesus incarnate otherwise referred to as Jah Rastafari as mentioner earlier, she conducted a tight question and answer session.

See summary of RasTa: A Soul’s Journey

To begin with following the screening of the film Donisha was overcome with emotion and stood almost paralised and engulfed in tears, long enough to be hugged and consoled by a member of the audience.

She attributed her sobbing to the appreciation she felt from the elders who suffered in Jamaica and elsewhere for their beliefs and defence of Rastafari. She felt it was an honour to recognised for her work to highlight the persecution her predecessors and ancestors endured particularly at the hands of the Jamaican authorities in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.

Much congratulations were bestowed on her from the gathering, applauding her courage, foresight and commitment to complete the project. Many questions were raised but the most contentious of them was whether millionnaire Levi Roots made any mention about helping Rastas given his proud disclusure in the documentary that he’s worth £30,000,000.

The room was very curious to hear the answer which was a disappointment to all. He said or words to this effect, ”No one helped me when I was starting my business…’ This brought loud shouts of disapproval with one familar chant, FIRE BURN HIM!

Donisha wrapping up the evening

Director and producer Stuart Samuels spoke of the joy he experienced while researching and filming the many personailities. He confirmed it was not easy but well worth the effort and he’s proud of the end product.

The evening was very informative and well received. The guests were satisfied that the production was a true depiction of their faith and the subjects interviewed were credible and worthy of inclusion.

RasTa: A Soul’s Journey is directed and produced by Stuart Samuels, executive produced and produced by Patricia Scarlett and Marilyn Gray, and is in partnership with Citytv. Hat House Big it Up is a sponsor and partner, as creator of the official RasTa hat.

For more information visit: http://rastajourney.com

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Category: Culture & Society, Inspiration, Lifestyle

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