Sat | Apr 20, 2019

Lost friends, family after converting to Rastafarianism but gained a skill

Published:Saturday | May 12, 2018 | 12:00 AMTamara Bailey/Gleaner Writer
Ras Ilak
Coconut husk bags, calabash bags and craft stick lamp done by Ilak.

May Pen, Clarendon:

Sherlock Williams, more popularly known as 'Ras Ilak', was one who society deemed a regular civil servant, serving in the Jamaica Constabulary Force. But the moment he moved into the lifestyle of Rastafarianism, he said, some people left his side.

However, he is far from despondent as he has been blessed with a skill that he wants to share with young people.

"After leaving high school, I joined the force. It was a way for me to be employed and to be productive, so I took the opportunity, but I only spent about four years in it because me sight the consciousness of Rastafari. I started to grow my hair, and you know they wouldn't allow it in there."

Ilak said that those times, were much different from now as Rastas were discriminated against widely.

"When me leave the force, me never start grow me locks same time because me have a brother that lives in Cayman, so I used to go back and forth quite often to work until I decided not to return because Cayman government and Rasta no go so well."

Ilak said that it was one day in the very week of deciding not to return to Cayman that he received a vision guiding him to his new skill.

"I had on a Clarks before laying down and I take it off and push it under the bed, and before I fell into deep sleep, I see a short man come a the bed side. At the time, I never realise that it was the king, Emperor Haile Selassie. Him come and take up a pair a shoes and say, 'These shoes you must wear.' the shoes he had was woven shoes."

Ilak said that he got up and had the urge to starting making the shoes, but he had no knowledge of how to begin and where to get the items he needed.

"I was walking up the road, and I passed a rubbish heap and in my mind, I heard a voice say, 'See you a pass a needle'." I was there looking until I got frustrated I walked off, but the voice was persistent. I returned to the bin and looked again, and I saw a corned beef tin. I turned it around examining it and saw the key on it. I took the key, straightened it, and file it down, and that was and has been my needle."

He added: "My first shoes was made out of the fine (chicken) feeding bags that I pulled up, and it wasn't as neat, but it could wear. Second one I made was neater, and people started asking me about it and ordering it."

The self-taught Ilak reveals that he can make over 40 different craft items, including jewellery, shoes, sandals, bags, garment, lamps, trinket boxes, among other things.

"Right now, if I could get a place to teach this art, I would be so grateful because people can have this skill and use it to start their own businesses. I want to impart the knowledge to the youth them. I started teaching some youth in Mandeville already, and from time to time I go there, but if I had a space, it would work better."

He further added, "Even some community centres that I see closed up - even that I can use. If I get a machine to stitch and have a space to teach, it would be a joy. If I could get word to the ministry of culture to help me impart this knowledge and standardise the thing, it would be a blessing" he ended

For those interested in learning the craft, getting a space for Ilak or purchasing Ilak's piece, call (876) 580- 9726.