By Ann-Marie Adams, Staff Writer
HARTFORD – In an oasis with a man-made waterfall nestled amid lush trees on Albany Avenue, residents in Hartford and beyond gathered on Sunday to hear about the origins of Rastafarianism from the legendary Jamaican Dub Poet: Mutabaruka.
This is not Muta’s first visit to Hartford. He’s been coming here since the1980s and was a featured poet on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam. Muta, as he’s often called, spoke candidly with The Hartford Guardian before he gave a 60-minute lecture about Emperor Haile Selassie I. This religious sect was birthed when Ethiopia crowned Selassi in the 1930s, and it was interpreted as a fulfillment of Marcus Garvey’s prophecy, which proclaimed that blacks should “look to Africa where a black king shall be crowned. He shall be your Redeemer.” Rastafarians believe in the Judeo-Christian God, whom they call Jah. And they hold the Bible and the Kebra Negast as sacred texts.
In his mesmerizing lecture, Muta traces the roots of Rastafarianism to Ethiopia in the 1930s and the folklore about Queen of Sheba and King Solomon in biblical times. Haile Selassie, whose name before the crowing was Ras Tafari Makonnen, is the 225th descendant of the union between these two royalties.
Muta, as he is often called, then gave the contours of Ratasfarism in Jamaica, which originated with Leonard Howell in 1935 and his followers, the Howellites. The Howellites espoused the Garvey’s philosophy and biblical doctrines. The marginalization of Rastas by the Jamaican government and its people helped shaped a culture that spawned the likes of Bob Marley and the Wailers, Peter Tosh and Jimmy Cliff.
Muta also expounded on the creation of a language to communicate within a colonial structure and the deliberate attempt to wear markers of that culture through locks, originated in the “Mau Mau” people in Kenya, who successfully fought racism and imperialism. The “Mau Mau” freedom fighters were awarded reparation by the British Government.
He ended his lecture by dispelling the myths that all Rastas smoke marijuana and that everyone who wears locks are Rastafarians. Some, he said, wear it as a fashion statement.
The lecture was a family-friendly gathering that included performances by drummers and poets, an arts and craft fair and talks about womanism, diet and lifestyle choices available through conscious living, eating and chanting.
The event was hosted by Kabbahla House.