Last year I had the opportunity to study 'The Harder They Come,' a famous Jamaican film directed by Perry Henzell, in the context of how film and music can have similar effects as written literature. Why this is important is because it made me realise that there is a lot we do not know about Jamaica and what has been happening there. Jamaica was an English colony from 1655 (although it formally became an English colony in 1670) and a British Colony from 1707 until 1962, when it became independent. And we can easily say that those hundreds of years under the Empire's rule did not do the Jamaican people much good.

For some reason, the history of Jamaica is not something we discuss, certainly not in European schools and I can't help but wonder why. Is it too much of a hit to our 'coloniser' ego? Does it bring out too much guilt? Possibly. Probably. Certainly. But which one is it?

Raggae and Rastafari

Jamaica is known to be the birthplace of reggae music, and its capital Kingston is where the Bob Marley Museum, dedicated to the famous reggae singer, is located.

And although many people are Bob Marley fans, there is a lot most of us do not know about reggae and where it comes from. We tend to associated reggae with Rastafari and believe that reggae is what defines them. Well, first of all, Rastafari are not just a cultural movement, but a religion.

I myself was not aware of this until recently. So after finding this out I thought that I should research it and see what it actually is about. I like Bob Marley, and now Jimmy Cliff, but maybe 'liking' the way something sounds is not enough and we need to pay attention to the lyrics. I won't start a political rant but I will mention that reggae is surprisingly relatable regardless of your race or nationality.

It certainly brings out the political background of Jamaica and the struggle its people had to face. Rastafari are, in fact, happy that so many people have embraced their music, since it carries off their message to the rest of the world.

Rastafari, also known as Rastafarianism, is an Abrahamic religion. Classified as a new religious movement, it developed in Jamaica during the 1930s.

It lacks any centralised authority and there is much heterogeneity among practitioners, who are known as Rastafari, Rastafarians, or Rastas. Rastafari place emphasis on what they regard as living 'naturally', adhering to ital dietary requirements, allowing their hair to form into dreadlocks, and following patriarchal gender roles.

Educate yourself

Personally, I believe it is very important for people to research these kind of topics themselves and learn about other cultures and how they came about being. Understand another is understanding oneself.

While doing my research I found the Roaring Lion documentary on YouTube, which is informative and brings together both the views of academics and of the common people who have witnessed the beginnings of the Rastafarian religious movement.

The documentary is one hour long but if you are interested in this topic it will not be a waste of time.

I hope this short article will give you a starting point in your research about Rastafari and their culture.