Think about Rastafari and you’ll immediately conjure images of the charismatic reggae master Bob Marley and his headful of swirling dreadlocks. Marley is certainly a Rastafari icon, but there is another man at the heart of the Jamaican movement. He is Ras Tafari: that was the birth name of Ethiopia’s 225th and last emperor, who was born on 23 July 1892, and took the regal name Haile Selassie I when he was crowned. For Rastas, he is God (or Jah) incarnate – the redeeming messiah.
Nearly 8,000 miles separate Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, and Kingston, Jamaica, but a link between them was forged by a number of poor black Jamaicans who believed Ras Tafari’s coronation was the fulfillment of a prophecy and that he was their redeemer, the messiah written of in the Bible’s Book of Revelation: “King of Kings, Lord of lords”. They believed he would arrange for a deliverance, which, as they saw it, involved a miraculous transformation. They would be spirited away from their lives of poverty in the Caribbean and relocated in Africa, the land of their ancestors and their spiritual epicentre.