Friday, July 11, 2014

Visit to Rastafari Indigenous Village

Montego River
I’ve been hearing about this for a while and recently had the privilege of visiting there. Arthur Newland greeted us in the Montego Bay River Gardens and led us across the Montego River at the fording.
After crossing, we walked beside the river, then through the trees, up a steep path which led us to an open, grassy area with a fire in the centre. This fire is not used for cooking, but is a symbol of change.
Tebah playing drum at A-dZiko's book-reading at Fontana
   Along with other visitors, I was introduced to Rastafarians busy making drums, Golden Ankh and Tebah, whom I had met at Adziko’s book launch, when he played the drum before she read from “All Over Again”.
   Firstman then told us some of the history of and symbols used by the Rastafari. The movement began in the 1930’s after the coronation of Haile Selassie as Emperor of Ethiopia. Leonard Howell was among a group of men of African descent, who, from their study of certain passages in the Bible, acknowledged Haile Selassie to be the Messiah. Howell’s followers came from living conditions unsuitable for human beings, but they did not demand that the British provide better conditions. Rather, they sought freedom of spirit and had the intention of returning to Africa. In spite of this, they came into conflict with the law. Howell organized wide-scale recruitment and became the head of a communal society at Pinnacle, near Sligoville in St. Catherine, which is even now, in 2014, under threat of being taken away.   
The Ankh
Although Bible passages are the source of much inspiration for the Rastafarian movement, not all symbols of the Christian Church accepted. The cross, being a symbol of death is not embraced.  Firstman showed us their symbol, the Ankh, used in ancient Egypt to signify life. The loop at the top represents the womb, and the part below it the penis. The crossbar represents children.  The trinity in various forms, such as mother-father-child, heat-air-water, and sun-moon-stars, is another symbol. The Rastafarian colours are red, gold and green, representing blood, the sun and life respectively.
We were treated to delicious fresh fruit - pineapple, papaya, banana and orange - served on a bamboo plate. Firstman told us that Rastafarians are vegetarians, and showed us some of the vegetables they eat, which are grown on land around the village. They also avoid salt.
Rastafarians take pride in their life-style to maintain healthy bodies, minds and spirits, but, like all of us at times, they succumb to illness. However they do not treat themselves with Western medicine; rather they rely on the healer’s knowledge  of medicinal plants and how to use them. The healer of the village showed us the herb garden and told us about their healing properties:  Aloe Vera is used to alleviate sunburn, and is made 
Aloe Vera
into a drink which cleanses the kidneys and the intestines; Broom Weed is a diuretic and is used for heart complaints; Sarsaparilla (known as an aphrodisiac), is used as a blood purifier and for gout; Fever Grass is useful for colic, flatulence and diarrhea as well as for fevers; Noni boosts the immune system and reduces inflammation and is useful in the treatment of arthritis; Marigold is used in the treatment of colds, fevers, coughs, wounds, and infections. Ginger, Rosemary and Basil are popular seasonings which also have their medicinal uses. Ginger is anti-nausea, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antiviral. Basil lowers cholesterol. Rosemary is good for digestive and circulatory problems.
About the Labyrinth 
The Labyrinth
For spiritual well-being and meditation, there is the Labyrinth. It represents a partial journey towards our core, step by step, breath by breath. We walked between the bamboo posts, seeming to retrace our steps, but in fact being led to the centre. Although Marijuana is used by Rastafarians for meditation and to bring about a feeling of spirituality, it was not mentioned, as it is still against the law in Jamaica to be in possession of it.
      Following our walk through the Labyrinth, we returned to the meeting place where the drummers played and sang for us. They made this an interactive experience, instructing us in how to play the drums. 
Our final stop was at the gift shop, where we could purchase jewelry and other craft items handmade by the Rastafarians in the village.

     Since people all over the world are interested in the Rastafarian Movement, the opportunity given to visitors to go to the Rastafari Indigenous Village is a welcome addition to slate of activities that tourists can choose from. 


Diane Browne said...

This was a most interesting post, Helen. Great that you did it.

Helen said...

Thanks, Diane.