Members of the Rastafari faith in Hanover, say they are progressing slowly but surely with the rebuilding of their Nyahbinghi Tabernacle in the community of Retirement, located on the fringes of the Dolphin Head Mountains.
The reconstruction of the tabernacle, which was destroyed by a hurricane more than 10 years ago, is now about 80 per cent complete. The group started the rebuilding process in February 2013 and are using bull thatch, wild mountain guava, bullet wood and wild coffee to erect the structure.
Ras Steve, a member of the rebuilding team told The Sunday Gleaner that the development plans for it include, not only its fundamental purpose of worship and praise, but as an education and skills training facility and the epicentre of a planned cultural and eco-tourism development and farm, on the 50 acres of land on which it is housed.
"Binghi is I and I spiritual realms ... but this (tabernacle) is not just a spiritual place... we use it not to confuse Binghi or anything, because we are not coming here to come drink rum and smoke cigarettes because, that is not our culture. If a one comes here they must respect the grounds, but at the same time it is an Afrocentric centre, rooted in the ancestors but moving into the future," said Ras Steve, whose given name is Steven Rivierie.
According to Rastafari elder, Binghi Job, in its heydays, the Retirement Nyahbinghi Tabernacle property hosted numerous celebratory events including the commemoration of the coronation of Emperor Haile Selassie I. Referred to as "Binghi", the week long commemorations have attracted some of the largest gatherings of Rastafari members from Jamaica and across the world.
"Thousands of people would come. We have chanting through the night; in the day activities would go on same way; well irie. People from all over the world came here from Japan, Canada, Ethiopia, Caribbean Islands - all over," said Binghi Job.
"The first centre was built in 1995. I went to the house of Binghi in Pitfour, St. James and the other at Scotts Pass in Clarendon and told them we wanted to host Binghi here, and them support I and I. It went on for five years and then underwent a 'downfallment' with Hurricane Lilly. We work together with all other Rastafari mansions and Binghi houses in Jamaica," Ras Job, who was born Clifford Grant, explained.
Ras Steve added that during those days there was no proliferation of Internet or social media, so the celebrations would be announced over the radio and members of the faith would spread the word to all parts of the globe.
"They generally just check where the Binghi is going to be. We have a Rastafari family which may not be really visible or see us on TV too much, but we communicate; we link with each other," he said.
"Everyone is encouraged to take something, but if they don't have anything they are still welcome. But we encourage that, because the family has to be fed and we don't want to have to be running to supermarket to Mr Chin. No, we should be self-sufficient. We have a (formal) sit-down session called a 'Reasoning', drumming, smoking herb, cooking, and sessions for children to teach them about Africa.
"The last day is where we have the 'seal up' and this usually has the highest turnout. Usually if there was any pressing issue or any topic to reason about, that would be the afternoon before the seal-up," he said in explaining the structure of the event.
Ras Steve said the group has additional plans in place for the construction of suitable accommodation for the hosting of Rastafari celebrations. He added that the group has undertaken fund raising activities for this and have taken on the task of doing the construction themselves.
"After completion, we will build the Lion Quarters, Daughters Quarters and the toilets and the kitchen. Quarters. When we have Binghi we have the Lion Quarters and the Daughters Quarters, but a one free fi carry dem tent and their hammocks. They are free to come and camp out up here for months even a year. Everyone is free as long as you are willing fi work. Because, you have some ones weh jus a look freeness; we discourage that. Once they strengthen the work and have ideas and are industrious, they can come to stay. The most important thing is to organise and centralise to go back to Ethiopia," he said.
"We had to decline the hosting of a Binghi last year, because we just weren't ready to accommodate visitors. Because if you are going to have visitors, you are going to have to have proper toilet facilities and suppose there is a shower of rain ... but we want it to finish so when a visitor comes to your place, they are comfortable. So we would now have to go back to the other Binghi house and set a date for hosting another Binghi ... tentative for April. Once we complete construction, we can get a date," he added.