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Stabroek News

Rastafarian women 'disrobe'
published: Sunday | March 9, 2008

Krista Henry, Staff Reporter

Etana goes for a grey skirt at the recent 'Smile Jamaica - Africa Unite' concert. - File

"What a natural beauty

No need no make-up to be a cutie

She's a queen, she's a queen

And when they ask what a good woman's made of

She's not afraid and ashamed of

Who she is

She's royal"

- She's Royal by Tarrus Riley

To embody the Rastafarian ideal of womanhood and beauty, Rastafarian female artistes traditionally dressed the part of a conservative female. Now a new breed of artistes is breaking outside of the fashion box and are embracing alternatives types of fashion.

Empresses such as deejay Queen Ifrica, singer Etana and beauty queen Zahra Redwood, among others, make different statements on the style of Rastafarian women.

Often thought as the epitome of the 'natural woman', most view Rastafarian fashion as anything moderate in red, green, gold and a far cry from the typical view of sexy. According to, "(the) Rastafarian woman is a queen and must keep different standards than the women in 'Babylonial' society or Western culture. Some of the standards include no make-up, no dressing in short skirts and they cannot use chemicals in their hair".

Rasta fashion has expanded worldwide, with countless brands using the colours without truly understanding the meaning behind them. To some extent, Rasta fashion has become synonymous with Jamaican fashion. In 2004, international designer, John Galliano, added red, green and gold-striped items to his fall Dior collection. Prada's spring '05 show was a parade of Rasta-striped knits and crocheted hats. American pop star Gwen Stefani is noted for wearing the colours and the Rasta tam and incorporates them into her clothing line - L.A.M.B.

Most foreign designers use the Rasta colours to often dress women as sex kittens. Locally, it is the female Rastafarian entertainers who set the standard for Rasta fashion. More than two decades ago it was the trio of Rita Marley, Marcia Griffiths and Judy Mowatt who first put the Rastafarian woman in the limelight globally. The ladies travelled the world as back-up singers for Bob Marley and later singers in their right as the I-Three. Often coordinated, they represented the Rasta and Jamaican colours and images. They were also often modestly dressed with head wraps and long skirts.

Years later, Rasta fashion is blooming more than ever. However, there are a few who cry that some Rastafarian entertainers dress a touch too sexy. Miss Jamaica Universe 2007 Zahra Redwood made history as being the first Rastafarian to take the crown. Since then, the young queen has been in the public eye and brought a little bit of her own style to the competition in Mexico. According to Redwood, when embarking to compete in the pageant she was not forced to wear anything that she would object to; rather the designers incorporated her cultural and Rastafarian beliefs into her outfits.

Redwood has since been known for sporting a lot of Jamaican/African colours and images, as well as African-type dresses and ornaments. She told The Sunday Gleaner that Barry Moncriefe and Mutamba are two of her favourite designers, especially Moncrieffe who she described as incorporating culture and glamour.

She said, "I dress according to my vibe, which always has an underlined modesty. There is always an appeal, not sexual, but tasteful." Zahra said that for Rastafarian women "modesty has always been the common trend, not targeting a sexual appeal deliberately". She says that there is no issue with wearing make-up, which she sees as coming from African and ancient Egypt. According to Zahra, it is often persons who are not Rastafarians who try to dictate what should and should not be worn.

Strict dress code

According to Etana, she doesn't see a strict dress code for Rastafarian women other than to dress in comfortable and healthy clothes. "Some people don't like to live up to strict codes; for health reasons it's best not to wear tight clothes. When it comes to like make-up a lot of people do for TV purposes, for example. When it comes to the roots of Rasta you can see why they don't use make-up, 'cause its suppose to be about the roots your taught not to wear it, but it is your decision," Etana told The Sunday Gleaner.

Etana can usually be seen sporting African symbols on simple T-shirts, wearing earthy colours and long flowing skirts. According to Etana her look is simply her. She doesn't go for a specific look but dresses based on her mood. She likes to wear tops from Zahra and Casha, as well as her own designs. She also admires the style of the I-Three who she believes always represent in their style.

Etana doesn't believe in wearing tight clothing. She explained: "It's my personal opinion, but I feel dat a princess, empress, a woman don't need to be naked to be sexy. We're all of a sex that is loving, that we bring life into this world. We don't need to do that naked."

Queen Ifrica has become one Rastafarian female to follow in terms of fashion, creating a whole new look from her red, green and gold dyed locks. Ifrica changes her look from occasion to occasion. In a previous interview with The STAR she says that 'sexiness' can be achieved by accepting oneself. This is instrumental in how she perceives herself and how she dresses. 'Sophisticated yet roots' is how Queen Ifrica described her style, which she believes is a depiction of 'roots with quality'.

Among her top choice for designers are Zaid, who does spray painting on cloth, Afar and House of Tafari. Some artistes promote women dressing skimpily in order to feel sexy, but Ifrica is not a supporter of this kind of dressing. She says this is "just being free spirited", but not something she will ever do. She believes that she is sexy, as sexiness is derived from "accepting yourself for who you are on the inside and outside".

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