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'Rasta in Transition' launched at Livity Restaurant
published: Sunday | April 27, 2003

Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer


THE IMPORTANCE of Dr. Ikael Tafari's latest book, Rastafari in Transition - Politics of Cultural Confrontation in Africa and the Caribbean (1966 - 1988) Volume 1, is underscored by the manner in which it has been launched.

The second of three launch events was held at Livity Restaurant on Hope Road in St. Andrew on Thursday night. The first was held on April 20 at Mutabaruka's Books About Us & Blakk Music Ltd. and the third and final leg on Friday at the University of the West Indies.

The highlight of Thursday night's event was an address by the author, in which he discussed Haile Selassie's positions on several critical issues. With Elombe Motley and Antoinette Haughton-Cardenas putting the tome in context, it was left to the evening's host, Courtney Haughton, to underscore the importance of the book.

"What the book is trying to point out to us is that the power is in our hands," he said.

The launch was informal in nature and intense in content, with drums sounding the applause for particularly pleasing moments. One of these came when Elombe Motley traced the lineage of a wooden chillum which he carried on-stage with him.


He said that after independence in Barbados, a lot of white people in did not have much confidence in what would happen to the country, so they started migrating to places like Australia, New Zealand, the United States and Canada. They sold many of their belongings. "You have never seen such wealth in your life from 1966 to 1970," he said.

At one such migration auction, he saw six chillums and found out that they had been taken from Jamaica by a Barbadian who was high in the police ranks here in the 1930s. The chillum had come from a raid on the Rasta camps in Jamaica. Motley's offer to buy one was refused but some months later the wife of the man who had the chillums called him up and handed over one, because the family was migrating to Miami.

The applause went up when it was realised that a treasured possession had come back home.

Antoinette Haughton-Cardenas spoke about confrontation, not in a combative sense but the way in which it is necessary for moving forward. "We live in a society that is very uncomfortable with confrontation," she said. She said that we need to realise that 'difference is not deficit'.

She also pointed out the pitfalls of schooling. "The more educated we become, the more hypocritical we become, the less honest we become, the more we accept things that are not right. Things do not change because we change our position," she said.

"Teaching our children is really the power. Passing it on is the ancestral power," she said.

"This book is unique, in that I would say for the first time in Black history, Rasta history is being portrayed through the eyes of someone who lived it, suffered the tribulation and wrote it based on his own personal livity," she said.

"This book has captured the formation of Rasta and followed it along the continuum to where it is today."

Ikael Tafari gave a riveting discourse on the position of Haile Selassie on certain crucial topics. Before doing so, however, the author of Rastafari in Transition ­ Politics of Cultural Confrontation in Africa and the Caribbean (1966 ­ 1988) Volume 1 briefly explained the basis of his work. "I began from the position that Rastafari is the most important consciousness to have arisen in the 20th Century," he said.

He also indicated how hard it had been to get the book out. "This was one of the most difficult things I have ever done in my life. It was finally published by the university - they set a new record of three years before they even looked at it. I guess it was too fiery, so they gave it some time to cool off," the lecturer at the Cave Hill, Barbados, campus of the University of the West Indies said wryly.

He went on to outline Haile Selassie's positions on religion and spirituality, Jesus, modern Ethiopianism, leadership, women and death, comparing them to prevailing Rastafarian attitudes.

"We are in the last hour of time. Look at Daniel 1, read from verse 36. When they talk about the last great ruler from the Gentile nation, George Bush not doing what he like? Organise for the rebuilding of Africa. Africa awaits its creators," he finished off. The word was replaced by film, as a short film on Haile Selassie, Footsteps of the Emperor, was screened after the speeches were over.

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