By Wangechi Gitahi |

I have always wanted to learn more about Rastafarians’ culture–who they are and what it is they exactly believe in. So, when I heard that Rastafarians had been given a place to call home in Ethiopia by Empeor Haile Selassie in 1948, I had to visit. Finally I would get to meet and interact with real Rastafarians in the town of Shashamane, Ethiopia.

It is a 30-40min ride from Awassa (aka Hawassa how to Hawassa University) and costs about 10 Ethiopian Birr. The bus-park you drop off at is busy-super busy. After several failed attempts to ask for direction (Amharic is the local language in the town), I finally found a lady to assist. She advised me to get a bajaj and tell them I want to see “Rasta” which is what I did and, finally, about 5 min from the bus-park, I arrived. It is actually located along the highway.

Things to do in Shashamane:

Twelve Tribes of Judah

Twelve Tribes of Judah (each color representing one tribe)

Twelve Tribes of Judah (each color representing one tribe)

Start your trip here. This place will give you great insight on the Rastafarian culture. I met one of their leaders who at first was unsure of my intent. He was amused when I told him I had traveled that far just to learn about Rastafarians. He then trusted me. One hour or so later, hundreds of questions from me, we had become friends that I was granted permission to take pictures (which they usually don’t allow). He was graceful enough to share lots about their faith, their beliefs and their culture. Very grateful to him and the rest of the Rastas I met. They have changed my mindset on Rastas–these people are friendly, warm, funny, smart and, most of all, just because someone has dreadlocks, that doesn’t make them “Rasta;” just because one listens to Reggae doesn’t make them “Rasta.” A real Rasta lives by the tenets of Rastafarianism. I did not learn everything, I did not understand everything, I didn’t agree with everything; but I learned a lot and got a better, honest appreciation of Rastafarians. Visit them and their village–it is well worth it and a must if you are or pass by Shashamane.

Read Your Bible, One Chapter a Day

Read Your Bible, One Chapter a Day

  1. They read the Bible; yes the Christian Bible. I was impressed and even more when I heard/read their motto–Read Your Bible, One Chapter a Day.
  2. The Twelve tribes of Judah are from the twelve sons of The colors on the wall represent each son. Thus, since I was born in March–the last month in their calendar (April represents the month the first son was born), my color is black and thus would make me from the tribe of Benjamin (according to them) and my nickname thus became Benji after hanging out with them 🙂
  3. Most of those who are living here have come from the Caribbean, to Ethiopia which they refer to as their home–Rastafarian home, or as others refer, “the Promised Land.” I asked one gentleman if he missed his home country and his response was interesting “How can I miss Home, yet, I am Home?”
  4. Do you know there are various types of Rastafarians i.e., Bobo, Ashanti, Nyabinghi, Twelve tribes of Judah among others each with different rules and regulations?
Hanging out with Rastafarians

Hanging out with Rastafarians

Say NO!

Say No to anyone who tells you, “Do you want something nice? I can get you something nice.” This is code word forthey can get you drugs. Now, when I got off the bajaj, a young man spoke to me asking where I was heading. When I told him I was looking for Twelve Tribes of Judah he said he would escort me. Though first skeptic, I accepted him to direct me to Twelve Tribes of Judah which was to be my first stop over and eventually he ended up being my guide around Shashamane once my new friends there vetted for him. As we walked, several young men popped from everywhere–all asking to be my guide and they could get me “something nice.” Some looked unkempt and high and I was a bit scared for a minute. I am happy I was with the young man as he told them he was my friend and they left us alone. However, my curiosity as I say is at times uncontainable, I asked one to show me what this “something nice” was and alas–it was marijuana aka weed aka ganja. I write this not to make you go out and look for it but to warn you in advance–I wouldn’t want any of you my fellow travelers to get in trouble innocently. I was wary as I had been informed of this tactic prior.

Banana Gallery in Shashamane

Banana Gallery in Shashamane

Visit the Banana Artist

The artist is Ras Haile Tefari best known as Bandi and he is famous. This guy’s artworks are really, really good; you won’t even believe they have all been done with bananas including the coloring. He has lots of pictures, magazines of old and several pieces of art. His home is surrounded by lots of flowers and plants and he is warm and friendly. If one wants to learn the art, he can teach you.

Please click here to see some pictures from Banana Gallery Museum in Shashamane, Ethiopia.

Source: Wangechi Gitahi
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