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Rastas’ fine side often misread

By Vision Reporter

Added 4th March 2011 03:00 AM

THEIR hair is often twisted into long natural locks and they usually sport overgrown and unkempt beards. Generally speaking, they look scruffy.

THEIR hair is often twisted into long natural locks and they usually sport overgrown and unkempt beards. Generally speaking, they look scruffy.

By Michael Kanaabi and Sebidde Kiryowa
THEIR hair is often twisted into long natural locks and they usually sport overgrown and unkempt beards. Generally speaking, they look scruffy.

They religiously attend Kampala’s reggae nights especially at Ground Zero in Wandegeya on Thursday and Steak Out on Wednesday where the smell of ganja fills the air as they sing (chant) to the best of reggae music.

Outside that, Rastafarians are private people who love to keep to themselves says Natty Rafael Mitali, an international reggae artiste from Rwanda.

Who are these Rastafarians?
We often think (and mistakenly so), that everyone who sports dreadlocks, can say ‘Jah Bless Rasta Far hi’ (God Jehovah the most high bless you), attempt to speak Jamaican patois and salute by way of kubonga (a form of greeting in which two people bring their fists together).

But that is so far from the truth. According Wikipedia, Rastafarians are a product of the Rastafari movement which arose in a Christian culture in Jamaica in the 1930s. Its devotees worship Haile Selassie I, former Emperor of Ethiopia (1930–1936 and 1941–1974), as God incarnate, the Second Advent.

The Rastafari Movement subscribe to such ideals as the spiritual use of cannabis (ganja) and the rejection of modern western society influences, called Babylon (from the metaphorical Babylon of the Christian New Testament.)

It proclaims Africa (“Zion” – the promised land) as the original birthplace of mankind.

In Uganda, it is a team of about 7,000 with James Babara aka Natty Dread, a city photographer, as their coordinator. However, they have not officially held elections and Babara is more of a quasi leader. They meet every Sunday at the Pan African Freedom Square from 4:00pm.

Rastafari in Uganda is not a highly organised religion; it is a movement and an ideology. Many Rastas say it is not a “religion” at all, but a “Way of Life”.
Babara says they worship a singular God whom they call Jah.

“We see Jah as being in the form of the Holy Trinity, that is, Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. Jah lives within us (humans). That’s why we often refer to ourselves as “I and I”.

“I and I” is also used instead of “We”, to emphasize the equality between all people. Yet, it is amazing that some Rastas accept the Christian doctrine that God incarnated onto the Earth in the form of Jesus Christ, to give his teachings to humanity.

However, they often feel his teachings were corrupted by Babylon.
Generally, Rastas assert that their own body is the true church or temple of God, and so see no need to make temples or churches out of physical buildings. However, some Rastafarians in other parts of the world have created temples.

Ugandan Rastas believe in paying respect to our fore fathers and consulting their spirits although they don’t believe in witchcraft. “This was part of our African traditional culture and beliefs which were condemned as evil by the white man which is not true because they were and are still part of us,” Mitali says.

The lion is a symbol of Haile Selassie. Jesus Christ is described as “the Lion of Judah” in the Bible, and for this reason Haile Selassie is seen as the reincarnation of Jesus. However, in the Nyabinghi order and the Bobo Shanti sub-division, the Lion of Judah is seen as a symbol of God or Jah; therefore, Haile Selassie I is seen as God.

Reggae Music
Mittali also says that Reggae music is the music for the Rasta man and every peace loving person in the world who loves good music should embrace it. “Our music is peaceful and speaks to issues like unity and freedom” he says.

Rastafarians celebrate February 6 Bob Marley’s birthday, May 11 his death also known as the day ‘he flew to Zion’, Haile Selassie’s birthday and the lives of all freedom fighters and reggae icons like Lucky Dube.

Babara says to them, dreadlocks are not a fashion symbol. “They represent the God given authority we have as human beings to manage and run the world through the lion of Judah whose hair and head they do resemble,” he says.

They also keep us from being corrupted and doing evil since we become easy to identify Babara adds. In fact, Rasta locks are so steeped in religion that Rastas claim they are supported by Leviticus 21:5 and Numbers 6:5.

These dreads are actually so important to Rastafarians that one is not allowed to cut them off even for a job because that is betrayal to our beliefs,” says Mitali.

Mitali says smoking weed, holy herb or ganja is a spiritual act for Rastas, often accompanied by Bible study and meditation. They consider it a sacrament that cleans the body and mind, heals the soul, exalts the consciousness, facilitates peacefulness, brings pleasure, and brings them closer to Jah.

They often burn the herb when in need of insight from Jah. Babara says the herb has no harm but only becomes dangerous when mixed with alcohol which is done by confused people masquerading as Rastafarians.

He makes it clear that they only smoke ganja and not the factory- made heroine and cocaine. Children are not allowed to touch it until they are adults.

Babara says that Rastas eat limited types of meat in accordance with the dietary Laws of the Old Testament; they do not eat shellfish or pork. Others abstain from all meat and flesh whatsoever, asserting that to touch meat is to touch death, and is therefore a violation of the Nazirite vow.

However, the prohibition against meat only applies to those who are currently fulfilling a Nazirite vow (“Dreadlocks Priesthood”), for the duration of the vow. Many Rastafari maintain a vegetarian diet all of the time. Food approved for Rastafari is called ital.

Usage of alcohol is also generally deemed unhealthy to the Rastafari way of life, partly because it is seen as a tool of Babylon to confuse people, and partly because placing something that is pickled and fermented within oneself is felt to be much like turning the body (the Temple) into a “cemetery”.

Red, gold and green
The Rastafarian colours of red, gold and green (sometimes also including black) are very commonly sported on Rastafarian flag, badges, posters etc.

It is suggested that they originate from the red, black and green of the Marcus Garvey movement, in combination with the gold of the Jamaican flag, and/or in reference to the colours of the Ethiopian flag. Red is said to signify the blood of martyrs, green the vegetation and beauty of Africa, and gold the wealth of Africa

Rastafarianism allows polygamy. Babara says polygamy is allowed because the second wife takes care of the man’s needs when the first wife is pregnant. She also takes care of her pregnant co-wife.

Rastafarian Movement
Today, awareness of the Rastafari Movement has spread throughout much of the world, largely through interest generated by reggae music.

The most notable example is Jamaican singer/songwriter Bob Marley (died 1981). By 1997, there were around one million Rastafari faithful worldwide. In the 2001 Jamaican census, 24,020 individuals (less than 1% of the population) identified themselves as Rastafarians.

Other sources have estimated that, in the 2000s, they formed “about 5% of the population” of Jamaica, or have conjectured that “there are perhaps as many as 100,000 Rastafarians in Jamaica”

Rastas’ fine side often misread

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