My encounter with a Rastafarian

On my second day in Ethiopia, we stopped in the city of Shashamane. In 1948, emperor Haile Selassie allowed a number of Jamaican Rastafarians to settle in Shashamane, and since then it has had a small community of these people.
hawa103Our main point of interest was the Banana Museum/art gallery. It was founded, and features the art, of one individual: Ras Hailu Tafari, formerly known as Bany Payne.
hawa104The museum features works of art, mainly portraits of the late Emperor Haile Selassie, made out of banana leaves. It also contains a wide variety of medals given by the late emperor, and various books.
hawa112There were some questions I’ve always wanted to ask Rastafarians. The owner wasn’t particularly busy when we found him, so I posed a couple of questions to him.
hawa122I asked him how people who claim to follow the Bible, can also worship a human being: Haile Selassie. His answer was that the emperor was more perfect than you or I. I wanted to ask him if he believed Haile Selassie was more perfect than Moses, whose burial place was kept secret lest people worship him. But he continued to the related topic of how black people are God’s chosen people. At this point, I pointed out that Haile Selassie wasn’t really black. One glance at him will tell you that he was primarily of Caucasian stock. Tafari dismissed this by claiming, in so many words, that dark skin was all that really mattered.
I asked him for biblical sources to back up his claim that Ethiopia was of special significance. He brought out a book of Psalms and showed me a verse or two that listed, among other places, Ethiopia.
He wears a marijuana emblem on his shirt. So I asked him what religious significance marijuana has for Rastafarians. His answer was that it holds no religious significance. Rather, they are herbalists, and they respect the medicinal properties of marijuana. I was told, by an Ethiopian I’d met at the airport, that it was the Rastafarians who introduced “ganja” to the local Ethiopians.
This man was very agreeable, and pleasant, to be with. His artwork is impressive; it’s amazing what one can do with banana leaves. But from a theological point of view, I’d say that his ideas are crazy.

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3 Responses to My encounter with a Rastafarian

  1. Stan d Mute says:

    I visited Bob Marley’s birthplace in the mountains of Jamaica. It is still quite remote with no electricity or running water. You approach the compound and massive gates must be opened before you can see inside or enter. Once in the compound you go up to a newer building housing a museum of sorts and a gift shop where you must pay an entrance fee. After paying, I went back outside to explore his home where he was born and raised. I pulled out a pack of cigarettes and was preparing to light one when a Rastafarian with a gun began yelling at me. I’m from Detroit so I anticipated something worse than what ensued. I was told never to smoke in Bob Marley’s house (I was outside, but whatever) and handed a massive hand rolled joint. The Rastafarian told me to smoke only this in Bob’s house. I said okay and continued my exploration. It appears there is a large marijuana plantation in a fenced off area out back. The house has no plumbing. Beds are just poured concrete raised a bit more than the floor. There is a hole in the ground for human waste. A concrete catch basin collects rainwater into a cistern, but this looks to be much newer than the house. I was pretty happy when I got back out of those mountains alive.

  2. Harar Krishna! says:

    Ras means prince. What does Tafari mean?
    I sometimes wonder if Rastas didn’t get their inspiration for growing dreads and smoking ganja from some of the “sadhus” in India who have done the same for hundreds, if not thousands of years. Ganja/ganjika is the Sanskrit word for marijuana.

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