15 ago. 2013

2013 Rastafari Studies Conference and General Assembly

With Rastafari heavily involved in Jamaican popular music, naturally, music will be part of the discussion at the 2013 Rastafari Studies Conference and General Assembly.

The conference is under way at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona campus, with the presentations centred around the Neville Hall Lecture Theatre in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities.

Wednesday, August 14: The academic presentations started on Tuesday and will end on Thursday, before the conference moves to Montego Bay, St James, for its closing day on Friday.

Today (Wednesday), Dr Sonjah Stanley Niaah will present a paper, 'Buju's Alpha and Omega: Revisiting 'Boom Bye Bye' and Reggae's Human Rights Agenda'.

The presentation is part of a panel, 'Rastafari and Human Rights and Religious Rights', which will be held from 4:30 to 6 p.m. in N1, Neville Hall Lecture Theatre.

'Rastafari and Reggae'

On Thursday, August 15, there will be an entire panel on 'Rastafari and Reggae' 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., also in N1. The presentations are diverse, as Rita Keresztesi will present 'Songs of Freedom: African Reggae and Hip-Hop' and Blaine Thomas' paper is 'Youth Agency, Contributions of Sons and Daughters'.

Dr Donna Hope will analyse 'New Name? Conceptualising the Second Wave of Post-millenial 'Rastafari Resistance' in Jamaican Popular Music'.

The final presentation is by Asante Amen, on 'Give the Teachings of HIM, the Journey of one Rasta Bredren to Find Self'.

Also on Thursday in N1, in the 3 to 4:30 p.m. session, Dr Kadamawe K'nife will present his paper 'Bob Marley - The Social Entrepreneur - a Rebel With a Cause - a Business Model'.

Music is not the only form of artistic expression which will be analysed during the 2013 Rastafari Studies Conference.

In one of the final panels on Thursday, Dr Imani Tafari-Ama will present on 'Rastafari Matrarchy: The Omega Principle and the Contribution of the Lioness Through Film Making'. Also, Nicole Jean Baptiste will analyse 'Rastafarian Art and Craftwork: A Present Day Livelihood and a Bridge to the Past via African Cultural Retention'.

Both papers will be presented at N4 during the panel on Rastafari, Gender and Development.

A number of films are interspersed throughout the conference. On Wednesday evening, the Andy Capper directed 'Reincarnated' will be shown in N1, starting at 8 p.m. There will be three films in a row on Thursday evening, also in N1, starting at 8 p.m. They are Jah Lives, directed by Franklyn 'Chappie' St Juste, Deborah Thomas' Bad Friday and Peeta Uppa Pan Top, directed by Kereen Karim.

Thursday, August 15: Dozens of Rastafarians gathered in Jamaica on Wednesday to brainstorm ways of pressuring European countries to pay reparations for slavery and talk about other core beliefs of the homegrown faith.

Mostly dreadlocked and colorfully attired followers assembled in lecture halls amid a weeklong conference at the University of the West Indies campus in Jamaica, the tropical island where reggae icons like Bob Marley and Burning Spear brought Rastafari's message to the world in the 1970s.

Rastafarians have long called for slavery reparations, a key tenet of their faith along with repatriation to Africa. A melding of Old Testament teachings and Pan-Africanism, it emerged in colonial-era Jamaica in the 1930s out of anger over the oppression of blacks and evolved into a spiritual movement.

Members have petitioned Queen Elizabeth II for compensation over the years. But the claims were rejected, and the monarchy said the British government could not be held accountable for wrongs in past centuries since slavery wasn't a crime when it was condoned.

About a decade ago, a coalition of Rastafarian groups estimated European countries formerly involved in the slave trade, especially Britain, needed to pay 72.5 billion British pounds ($110 billion) to resettle 500,000 Rastafarians in Africa.

Now, the Caribbean Community bloc of more than a dozen nations is launching an effort to seek compensation for what they say is the lingering legacy of the Atlantic slave trade across the region. Caricom, as the organization is called, has enlisted the help of a prominent British human rights law firm and is creating a Reparations Commission to press the issue.

The bloc is focusing on Britain on behalf of the English-speaking Caribbean, France for the slavery in Haiti and the Netherlands for Suriname, a former Dutch colony on the northeastern edge of South America.

Some Jamaican Rastas, like Lion Claw, a bearded member of the movement's Nyabinghi branch, disdain all government initiatives and are skeptical of Caricom's efforts.

"What is going on now is just the same slavers trying to benefit. Tell me, who do the governments of Caricom represent? The slaves or the slavers?" he said outside a lecture hall.

But other Rastas are more hopeful that the governments' initiative can bolster their longstanding efforts.

"It's a good thing that Caricom is seeking reparations now. We need to free up Rastafari," said Bongo Ernest, also a member of Nyabinghi, whose members worship the late Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie and believe returning to Africa would heal humanity and complete a cycle broken by slavery.

Ras Patrick Beckford, a member of the Rasta branch Twelve Tribes of Israel, believes persistence in pushing for reparations will eventually pay off.

"There are those of our detractors who would want us to believe that Britain would never pay reparations. I don't believe that. We have to be positive," he told attendees. "We are going to use one country first as a stepping stone to garner what belongs to us."