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Visions of Zion

Visions of Zion: Ethiopians and Rastafari in the Search for the Promised Land

Erin C. MacLeod
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Visions of Zion
    Book Description:

    In reggae song after reggae song Bob Marley and other reggae singers speak of the Promised Land of Ethiopia. Repatriation is a must! they cry. The Rastafari have been travelling to Ethiopia since the movement originated in Jamaica in 1930s. They consider it the Promised Land, and repatriation is a cornerstone of their faith. Though Ethiopians see Rastafari as immigrants, the Rastafari see themselves as returning members of the Ethiopian diaspora. InVisions of Zion, Erin C. MacLeod offers the first in-depth investigation into how Ethiopians perceive Rastafari and Rastafarians within Ethiopia and the role this unique immigrant community plays within Ethiopian society.Rastafari are unusual among migrants, basing their movements on spiritual rather than economic choices. This volume offers those who study the movement a broader understanding of the implications of repatriation. Taking the Ethiopian perspective into account, it argues that migrant and diaspora identities are the products of negotiation, and it illuminates the implications of this negotiation for concepts of citizenship, as well as for our understandings of pan-Africanism and south-south migration. Providing a rare look at migration to a non-Western country, this volume also fills a gap in the broader immigration studies literature.

    eISBN: 978-1-4798-9099-6
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction: My Father’s Land
    (pp. 1-34)

    I was on my way to the town of Shashemene, about 250 kilometers south of Addis Ababa. Having worked in Jamaica, Shashemene was a place that I mostly had heard about in reggae songs. It was where I’d been told that Rastafari,¹ who view Ethiopia as the Promised Land and themselves as Ethiopian, had developed a settlement on land provided to them by Emperor Haile Selassie I, who ruled the country from 1930 to 1974. At the time of my first visit, I had just finished volunteering with Habitat for Humanity on a project in Jimma, a town located in...

  5. 1 Ethiopianness
    (pp. 35-59)

    Contemporary tourists traveling through Ethiopia are shocked by how different each part of the country can be. The mountainous north, with its near-homogenous Orthodox residents, some Amhara and speaking Amharic, some Tigray and speaking Tigrinya, many dressed in the traditional white, scarflikegabisandnatalas, could not appear more different than the hot, desert area of Harar, in the east of the country, with its predominantly Muslim population, including Oromo women in extraordinarily bright-colored clothing. And this is a contrast between just two different areas of Ethiopia. The forms of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism in Ethiopia possess elements specific to...

  6. 2 Christianity and the King, Marriage and Marijuana
    (pp. 60-93)

    In July 2006, after having led a Habitat for Humanity building project in Shashemene, I returned to Addis Ababa, said goodbye to the volunteers, visited friends, and then promptly turned around and went back to the town where the majority of Rastafari repatriates have settled. The occasion was His Imperial Majesty’s 112th birthday, celebrated on 23 July, according to the Gregorian calendar, but the sixteenth ofHamleaccording to Ethiopia’s dating system.

    I had heard from a friend in Addis that there would be a Rastafari parade down the main road of Shashemene that afternoon. I sat at a café...

  7. 3 Speaking of Space in/and Shashemene
    (pp. 94-125)

    Before arriving at Shashemene, one travels through a number of small communities, each one introduced by a small white sign with black letters in both English and Amharic. Maki, Ziway, Arsi Negele—every town’s name is announced by an identical government sign. Swaths of farmland separate these towns and villages, municipalities that look like clusters of buildings, lining the highway, each small shop or home or government building constructed primarily of mud—buildings constructed out ofchika, the Amharic word for wattle and daub. As this is the Rift Valley, the road is straight and generally flat. The condition of...

  8. 4 Africa Unite, Bob Marley, Media, and Backlash
    (pp. 126-166)

    On 6 February 2005, a large concert was held in Meskel Square, a huge central piazza in Addis Ababa. Meskel Square is a stadium-sized area next to a confusing intersection of seven roads and nine lanes of traffic. Every September, during the Ethiopian Orthodox festival of Meskel—the “festival of the true cross,”meskelmeaning “cross”—the square is flooded with people. A huge bonfire is set and priests celebrate the location of the “true” cross of Christ. In the past the square was used for elaborate, flamboyant rallies under the communist Dergue government. At present it is used for...

  9. 5 Representations of Rastafari
    (pp. 167-190)

    Music plays constantly in Ethiopia. All bus drivers and taxis play music. The Orthodox Church utilizes chanting and ceremonial drums in all its religious practices and the members of the growing Protestant population are an active audience for the huge numbers of popularmazmul, “sacred music” singers, though they actively spurn all secular music (calledzefenin Amharic). Streets full of music shops can be found in the market district of Addis Ababa, each selling a wide range of popular Ethiopian music on cassette and CD. Certainly, some American popular music is available, but most of the music heard in...

  10. 6 Development and Cultural Citizenship
    (pp. 191-227)

    Over coffee in Addis Ababa, I spoke to Ras Tagas King about the growing numbers of Rastafari in Ethiopia, both in Shashemene and elsewhere. Having moved to Ethiopia in 1988 with his wife and two children, King is a qualified building engineer and his wife is a teacher who works at an English international school in Addis Ababa. His main focus, however, is with the Ethiopian World Federation. King is dedicated to Ethiopia and “Ethiopia’s progress,” as he explains, but he laments the lack of citizenship rights for the repatriate Rastafari community. He is passionate about the situation and expressed...

  11. 7 Strategies of Ethnic Identity and African Diaspora
    (pp. 228-238)

    From 2003 to 2013 I heard numerous discussions of the issue of citizenship and representation for Rastafari repatriates, both among Rastafari as well as Ethiopians. I’d be told how Rastafari should or should not be allowed to consider themselves as Ethiopian. Rastafari themselves would complain, and many would say that they would keep fighting until citizenship was granted. Sister Ijahnya Christian, a more recent Rastafari repatriate to Ethiopia whom I spoke with in 2012, writes that “governments need to understand and appreciate that whatever their views of Rastafari spirituality, the basis of the Rastafari demand for repatriation and reparations resonates...

  12. Conclusion: The Future of Ethiopians and Rastafari in the Promised Land
    (pp. 239-250)

    In 2009, thirty-five individuals were arrested in Addis Ababa, suspected of being part of a conspiracy to take power in Ethiopia.¹ The alleged leader of the coup was Berhanu Nega, a man who was poised to become mayor of Addis Ababa after the 2005 elections. Instead he ended up in Philadelphia teaching economics after his party, which was in the opposition, failed to win an election described by observers as controversial.² In elections in 2010, the EPRDF successfully held on to power but then the nation was shocked by the sudden death of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who passed away...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 251-272)
  14. References
    (pp. 273-284)
  15. Index
    (pp. 285-298)
  16. About the Author
    (pp. 299-299)