Monday, August 08, 2011
The news today from Ethiopia is grim, as it has been at many times in the past, with drought, food shortages, torture and political repression. Yet this place has also been the focus of utopian hopes, not least from the Rastafarian movement. The Face magazine (November 1982) featured a fascinating article by Derek Bishton about Shashamene, a township in southern Ethiopia where Rastafarians from Jamaica and elsewhere had settled in search of a better life.
As the article explains, the origin of the setlement was the 1945 Land Grant, whereby Ethiopian head of state Haile Selassie donated 500 acres of land to enable black people from elsewhere to return to Africa. This had followed discussions with the Ethiopian World Federation, a Garveyite organisation set up to support Ethiopia after it was invaded by Mussolini's Italy in 1935.
By the mid 1970s there were only about 15 Rastafarians living in Shashamene, but they were then joined by a second wave associated with the Twelve Tribes of Israel, the group that Bob Marley was associated with. The article documents their lives and hopes, as well as their struggles in the face of poverty, political tensions, and internecine quarrels. Not sure how life is now in Shashamene, but the Rastafarian settlement is still in existence.
For more on Shashamene today and its musical connections with Ethiopian reggae, see this great post at Soundclash
(click on pages to enlarge and read article)