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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

From The Archives: The Spirit Of Rastafarianism

Written By: Ngum Ngafor—Since its inception in the 1930s, Rastafarianism has been at the heart of numerous African liberation struggles. But despite gaining global recognition through the music and activism of reggae legend Bob Marley, it remains the subject of scorn and marginalisation—even by the very people it aimed to emancipate. Best-selling author, educationist and radio presenter, Dr. Sandra Richards tells MIMI why, despite the odds, she is proud to be close to this much-misunderstood way of life.

MIMI: What is the basic philosophy of Rastafarianism?
Dr. Sandra Richards: Rastafarianism, as I understand it, is about African redemption. It’s about a way of living -what they would call a livity, which is to follow the teachings of the prophet, who is Haile Selassie. The fundamental belief system of Rasta is that they are to keep themselves in line with his teachings.

MIMI: Haile Selassie didn’t actually found Rastafarianism. Some say he was even surprised by it. What exactly was it about Selassie’s thinking that drew Rastafarians towards him?
SR: I think the prime thing about Haile Selassie is his lineage. He came from a particular royal line and that’s one of the fundamental things. He also showed that to have livity is not about being poor in any way. It’s about having abundance; that was demonstrated in the way he was with his family and in what he promoted. So, yes, I too understand that he didn’t found Rastafarianism. However the movement came out of a belief system which was held up by how he lived and demonstrated self-determination. It’s not too far from the teachings of the Rt Hon Marcus Mosiah Garvey in actual fact.

MIMI: Tell me more about the influence of Marcus Garvey on Rastafarians.
SR: Marcus Mosiah Garvey talked about ‘race first’ – having pride in one’s ancestry and recognising that Africans have a right, as anyone else to look towards themselves in terms of self-determination, taking pride (in themselves) and having businesses and all that comes with being self-determining. So the philosophies and the teachings of Marcus Garvey are in complete keeping with Rasta livity because it is about self-determination and holding fast to race and spirituality without apology.

MIMI: But with multiculturalism currency in a globalised climate, the idea of ‘race first’ seems rather unsettling - even divisive!
SR: The truth of the matter is that people are going to be uncomfortable. Unfortunately, up until a movement such as Rastafari, the people that have always been uncomfortable have been African people and it seems rather unjust that the only people who should ever be this way are Africans. So if other people feel ill at ease when a nation decides to take pride in themselves, then that really is an issue for them. Everybody has a right to be proud of their ancestry. To be African is not a mistake.

MIMI: Rasta’s African focus is very clear but is it a religion or a movement?
SR: I don’t actually subscribe to dividing anything. I think that Rastafari is more than a religion. It is a spiritual way of being. A religion is quite divisive and seeks to pocket people. Rasta is not defined simply by the way you look or the way you dress or where you go. Rasta is a vibration. It’s far more encompassing than notions of religion. Rasta is very clearly a movement; it’s about the opposite of stagnation. It’s entirely about elevation and so Rastafari will ensure that even if it causes some difficulty, they will push forward that which they know elevates. It is a way of being, which encompasses peace, love, truth and balance. These are also the tenets of a (Egyptian) spiritual principle called Ma’at. One could also say to be Rasta is political.

To read the rest of this article, which was originally published in MIMI's November 2007 issue, click here.

(Photo Credits: © Paco Romero Photography / iStockPhoto) (Model Used Solely For Illustrative Purposes)


Aron Ranen said...

Please take a moment to check out my documentary film BLACK HAIR

It is free at youtube. 6 parts including an update from London, England.

It explores the Korean Take-over of the Black Beauty Supply and Hair biz..

The current situation makes it hard to believe that Madame C.J. Walker once ran the whole thing.

I am not a hater, I am a motivator.

Plus I am a White guy who stumbled upon this, and felt it was so wrong I had to make a film about it.

self-funded film, made from the heart.

Can it be taken back?


African Queen said...

Thank you for the link. I watched the entire series and it has been illuminating. WOW!!! Come on people, let's get it together when it comes to this hair issue.