Rastafarianism: a belief beyond dreadlocks

They would look clumsy chubby and rough, but the true insight of true Rastafarians is that of a kind, respectful and peaceful person. The true sense of Rastafarianism can be dubbed from Morgan Heritage’s song which says “this is not a dread lock thing… it’s a divine conviction of the heart…..”
L-R: Late Bob Marley, Late Lucky Dube.
L-R: Late Bob Marley, Late Lucky Dube.

They would look clumsy chubby and rough, but the true insight of true Rastafarians is that of a kind, respectful and peaceful person. The true sense of Rastafarianism can be dubbed from Morgan Heritage’s song which says “this is not a dread lock thing… it’s a divine conviction of the heart…..”

For long, Rastafarianism has been referred to as a movement with roots from the Jamaican blacks, who were seeking for their freedoms.

According to a renowned Rastafarian Armani Emmanuel a photo journalist based in Kigali, Rastafarianism is more of a spiritual than a social movement, though the bond and solidarity amongst them has been instrumental in undertaking social movements.

When asked to shade some clarity on the general perception that all Rastafarians are ganja addicts, who blatantly smoke it like their lives depend on it, Mucunguzi declined to the allegation saying that it is not entirely true, terming it as a sad generalization.

“Personally I have never even smoked a single puff of ganja or any drug in that category, but it has not affected my belief in anyway, that is just a sad generalization that we as Rastafarians are subjected to” he clarified.

He adds that the faith of true Rastafarians embodies all the prudent and constructive values of society, constructed from the philosophy of creating and restoring the true face of mankind and making the world more peaceful, as opposed to the general perception of them as perverts.

“I don’t deny Rastafarians smoking weed, they do but this is an addiction just like how it happens in non-Rastafarians, it shouldn’t be blown out of proportion to taint our image” he added.

It is said that one time the late Lucky Dube was asked the same question of whether ganja weed smoking is an integral part of a Rastafarian and he replied that it is a herb just like any other, there by condoning it.

It is also alleged that the late Bob Marley, one of the legends of Rastafarians and a strong inspirational among them, was once asked to make his one wish in the world, and his wish came out to be legalizing growing and consumption of ganja, all this points to the fondness between Rastafarianism to the ganja weed.

It is written that Rastafarians consider smoking ganja as the ‘holy herb’ to be filled with the holy spirit, just like how the ancient Greeks and Romans held similar concepts of seeking for alcoholic intoxication at the Bacchanalian festivals in order to become possessed with their gods.

Whenever a street kid notices a Rasta man coming, they straight away begin smiling because they know money has come, they never pass them without handing out at least a five hundred note.

For long the face of Rastafarianism has been negatively tainted and associated with lawlessness due to their fondness with ganja, a weed they consider so sacred in their belief.

Perhaps another reason as to why they are sometimes perceived negatively is their uncanny hair style they wear, which is oftentimes perceived with peculiarities by some members of society especially those who are not informed about the faith.

The dreadlocks that Rastafarians wear are symbolic of a lion, which has been known to be the lion of Zion. These dreadlocks have turned to be a fancy hair style that women especially the whites have come to admire a lot, it has been noticed that women have hopelessly fallen for the ferocious look which the dreadlocks creates on men, there by making Rastafarians an undisputable target for the females.

A Rastafarian friend of mine often brags that when my South African girlfriend comes back, she will forget about me after seeing him, due to the ‘charm’ his dreadlocks will ooze to her.

Rastafarian beliefs have never been strictly defined, yet the faith continues to exist all over the world, mainly in Jamaica.

Followers believe that Haile Selassie’s coronation in 1930 was the fulfillment of a prophecy made by the faith’s founder Marcus Garvey. In 1920, he declared that a black messiah would be crowned in Ethiopia.

To Rastafarians, Selassie was much more than just a political leader. Their theology focused on the divinity of Selassie as a living manifestation of Jah, the all-knowing and all-loving God.

Rastafarians regard Africa and Ethiopia in particular as the promised land of Moses and they also view themselves as the true descendants of David and children of God as defined in the Old Testament.

This is partially due to a traditional belief that in the 10th century BC, the kingdom of Ethiopia was supposedly founded by Menelik who is believed to be King Solomon’s first son who was conceived by the Queen of Sheba.

This supposedly occurred when his mother visited Solomon, after which he gave her all her desire which she asked for and some people have suggested that among her desires was to conceive a son by Solomon the wisest man in the world.

Many Rastafarians seek to follow the Law of Moses and are strict vegetarians who actually shun alcohol; they have also adopted the ‘star of David” and “Lion of Judah” as key religious symbols of identity.

They cling onto some biblical writings to justify their fraternity and beliefs such as Psalms 87;4 where they argue that it is a prophetic reference to Haile Selassie being born in Ethiopia as the Messiah.

They also believe that one day there will be an exodus of black people to Ethiopia, the Promised Land. Their outlook is shaped by their belief in the Ten Commandments.

Rastafarians live a peaceful life with few material possessions. They devote much time to contemplating the scriptures and avoid the materialistic world, which they call Babylon.

Rastafarians have adopted a form of Hindu avatars, believing that Haile Selassie was the last of four incarnations of God that include Moses, the Hebrew Prophet Elijah, and Jesus.

True Rastafarians feed on pure diets free from chemicals, preservatives and other additives; they avoid meat (especially pork), coffee, salt, tobacco, alcohol, and seafood (although small fish are allowed).

They are also prohibited from cutting their hair, interfering with its natural growth, or using hair products and stylists. Dreadlocks are a natural result of this practice, rather than a cultivated hairstyle.

Many Rastafarians wear a tam, a woolly hat often colored red, green and gold, however just like how Jean Paul Niyonsenga Rasta man in Kigali told me that there are very many fake Rastafarians and some of these beliefs and culture doesn’t mean anything to them.

“There are many people today who call themselves Rasta men yet they are not, these are the ones who have spoilt the Rastafarian image, because the cause, beliefs and cultures of a true Rastafarian don’t mean anything to them” pointed Niyonsenga.

Women keep their heads covered when receiving visitors or worshipping, while men uncover their heads during worship, women conceal their bodies and wear colorful dresses. Their inspiration is propagated by their reggae music genre which they attach a lot of meaning and conviction.

The way reggae is sung and performed depicts their philosophies of spontaneous and harmonious living, as they flamboyantly swing their dreadlocked heads from side to side with their sometimes rythmless but peaceful records.  

Rastafarianism’s most important symbols are the Lion of Judah, Haile Selassie’s personal emblem; and the red, black, green and gold flag, adopted from Garvey’s back to Africa movement.

Red represents the blood of African martyrs; black represents the color of the ancient African people; green represents the fertility of the Promised Land, Ethiopia; gold represents Africa’s wealth, the Christian cross is another important symbol.