The Movement of Rastafarianism

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Rastafarianism is largely dependent on the understanding of the historical as well as the cultural and social aspects that have influenced the rise of this movement. The Rastafarian faith is one which is deeply intertwined with social and cultural dissatisfaction and the search for an identity and consciousness that was particular to disenfranchised and dispossessed Black people. The roots of Rastafarianism also are deeply connected with the symbolism and the example of Ethiopia and the figure of Haile Selassie. Rastafarianism should be seen in the context not only of historical and social events and the search for freedom from oppression among the people of Jamaica, but also as an expression of the human search for religious meaning and cultural identity. This paper will provide an overview of these central aspects and attempt to examine the links such as the cultural and social aspects of the Rastafarian Moment.

The Rastafarian faith and Ethiopianism

In terms of cultural and social anthropology, the foundations of the modern Rastafarianism religion and culture lie in the poor and economically deprived areas of Jamaica. “Rastafarianism is a religion that was created in the early 1900 hundreds due to the social and poor economic conditions of the Black people in Jamaica.” (Pettiford E.T.) However the Rastafarian religion has deep and complex roots in both social and political events as well as in theology and philosophy. The Rastafarian faith claims Tafari Makonnen as its symbol and originator. This is the pre-coronation title of His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia. (Rastafarianism) In reality the foundations of the modern Rastafarian faith and movement in Jamaica and elsewhere can be traced back to the official coronation of Ras Tafari Makonnen as the new emperor of Ethiopia in 1930. (King, 1998, p. 39) -------------------------------------------------

All true Rastafarians believe that Haile Selassie, Emperor of Ethiopia, is the true and living god, at least of the Black race. A member of the Rastafarian Repatriation Association explained it this way: We know before that when a King should be crowned in the land of David's throne, that individual would be Shiloh, the anointed one, the Messiah, the Christ returned in the personification of Rastafari. (Barrett, 1997, p. 104) The reading also points out that, “Selassie was more the embodiment of the Rasta faith than the actual founder of the religion. In actuality, he was known to have been devoted to Ethiopian Orthodox faith, which is more Christian-based in its theology.” (Rastafarianism)

In understanding the Rastafarian religion as both a faith and a culture it is important to take into account the influence of “Ethiopianism”. This point is emphasized by Barrett ( 1997). “The emergence of the Rastafarians will remain a puzzle unless seen as a continuation of the concept of Ethiopianism which began in Jamaica as early as the eighteenth century.” (Barrett, 1997, p. 68) In essence this refers to the attraction to and the “enchantment “that Ethiopia had for many people throughout the world – particularly for the Black people of Jamaica. Ethiopia is also steeped in Biblical history and associations. These images and the history of the Ethiopian people have had a profound effect on the “Blacks in Disapora.” As Barret ( 1997) states;” The enchantment with the land and people of Ethiopia has had a long and interesting history.” This extends from “… biblical writings through Herodotus to the medieval fantasy with the mythic King Prester John right down to our day, Ethiopia has had a hypnotic influence on history, which has been retained by the imagination of Blacks in Diaspora.” (Barrett, 1997, p. 68) -------------------------------------------------

The above view relates historically and culturally to the loss of identity and the oppression of Black people though slavery in the nineteenth century. The symbol of Ethiopa...
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