Bob Marley visited Ethiopia in 1978 and stayed in Shashamane, the village formed by those who had taken Emperor Haile Selassie’s offer.

By Bill Wiatrak (Houstonia) |

When you think of Jamaica, you’re likely to conjure a mental picture of Bob Marley before you think of anything else. There’s no other country in the world where one musician seems to represent the embodiment of an entire culture like Marley is to Jamaica. The dreadlocks and the red/green/yellow color scheme seems sooooo Jamaican. But is it?

The answer might surprise you: Look no further than the Ethiopian flag. Does it look familiar? That’s because the Rasta movement arose in Ethiopia, not Jamaica.

Ethiopia is the only African country never colonized by Europeans. Countries like Kenya and Egypt were controlled by the British; the Belgians took the Congo; and much of North Africa was seized by the French. Every European country seemed to want a piece of the “dark continent,” but Ethiopia always avoided colonization— including two failed attempts by the Italians in 1895 and later in 1935.

During the latter attempt, a prominent figure emerged: a king who claimed to be from the lineage of Queen of Sheba and King Solomon. His name was Haile Selassie, who became revered far beyond his country as “The Lion of Judah.”

Haile Selassie had other names, too, partly because of the different languages he spoke (including French and the native Amharic and Ge’ez languages of Ethiopia). Tafari was his given name at birth, meaning “one who is respected or feared.” Later, as governor of the walled city of Harar, he was given the ranking title of Ras, or “prince.” If you haven’t already figured it out, Haile Selassie was also known as Ras Tafari. Sound familiar?

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