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'Bob Marley was murdered' - Reggae icon's granddaughter does not believe cause of death story

Published:Tuesday | December 21, 2010 | 12:00 AM
Bob Marley

Travels the world making a documentary about Rastafari

He was reggae's most famous son and the man credited with doing more to promote the culture of Rastafari than anyone else. Jamaica-born Bob Marley remains an iconic figure, and his record sales to date are believed to top £190 million. He died in May 1981 from cancer, age 36.

But despite his official cause of death being widely accepted as acral lentiginous melanoma, nearly three decades later, his granddaughter, Donisha Prendergast, a documentary film-maker, is controversially claiming that the real cause of Marley's death was deliberate poisoning.

The 25-year-old, who lives in Kingston, Jamaica, was in the United Kingdom filming a documentary on Rastafari. She told The Voice: "Somebody killed him. Look at history, it shows us what they do to our leaders. He was a healthy man who exercised regularly. I would love to believe that he died of natural causes, but history won't allow me to. I believe he was poisoned."

Prendergast is the daughter of Sharon Marley Prendergast, who Bob adopted when he married her mother Rita. The young film-maker refuses to accept reports that her grandfather's death was a naturalone, and makes the astonishing claim that he was poisoned by "political interests who feared his outspokenness to educate the masses about the Babylon system."

Prendergast said: "Every time I look at a Rasta man I can't help but remember my grandfather. Bob Marley was reggae music in a lot of ways. He wasn't just speaking to entertain people or to make a dollar, instead what he was saying cost him his life.

"His life has inspired me to explore Rasta around the world. I wanted to know what Rasta was like around the world. I thought I was just going to see the roots and evolution, but Rasta is a cultural expression.

"Not everybody who wears dreadlocks or smokes weed will claim to be Rasta, but they're expressing Rasta in a certain essence, so it's just about understanding that."

Her documentary, Rasta: A Soul's Journey, will examine how Rastafarian communities have evolved in the UK, United States, Israel, India, Jamaica, South Africa, Ethiopia and Canada.

Prendergast will meet people who have chosen a Rastafarian lifestyle and she hopes viewers will be enlightened about who Rastas are and how they live. Her main goal is to remind black people that they are African and that Africa is accessible today.

She said: "Rastas are very secretive and mystical people. We don't believe in giving a lot of our energies to this world, instead we keep it in our community, as we are building a nation of African-minded people.

"There is a lot to do in Africa. That's where my grandmother currently lives. The media has told us a lot of lies; it's up to us to really seek truth and remember that we only know what they tell us," she told The Voice.

Prendergast also wants to educate those of African heritage about the importance of embracing their natural identity instead of adapting to the white aesthetic of straight hair and fair skin.

"It's important to embrace African identity. Rasta is the only movement that is keeping Africa alive. Look at my hair. The fact that I've allowed my hair to grow naturally is an African expression. One must come to know oneself outside of what the westerners teach.

"My family are Rasta. We are all African and the Western society deceives us and forces us to conform, and it doesn't suit us. I stopped wearing jeans because I don't like how men respond to me. So now I wear skirts. My gran lives in Africa and has lived there for the past three years.

"I'm not looking for awards from the film, but instead I want to expose people to themselves. This film will go international and will be shown theatrically in schools. We want to take it all over the world."

Despite plans for the film to be broadcast internationally, she said what satisfies her most is knowing that Bob would be happy to see her doing what he would have wanted her to.

She said: "The system of Babylon that my grandfather talks about, is it real? The fact that I have to spend money to eat, I can't pick a fruit off a tree because somebody may sue me. There are hungry people in this world when others' bellies are too full. Let's not ignore these things. Where is the justice and the love in this world?"

- Merissa Richards