The Hidden Treasure of the Rastafari Movement in Brazil
No one who has traveled throughout the world should be surprise to encounter a Rastafari person(s) trekking onward into creation. Particularly in Brazil - which is so deeply rooted in African ancient traditions – the presence of the Rastafari way of life is not surprising. More importantly, Brazil enjoys a largest population of Africans outside of the African continent; second only to the population of Nigeria. What makes the Rastafari Movement a hidden treasure in Brazil? The answer may be found in erroneous views of the Brazilian Government and the propaganda fed to so many people via foreign publications with negative stereotypes of the movement. Nevertheless, in Brazil, the perception is an Afro Centric way of life. It is the perfect perception of the Rastafari Movement in that part of the world.
In Brazil, Africans, Europeans and racially mixed people practice and are entrenched in many religious doctrines and dogmas of both African and European origin. Many Brazilians have embraced Rastafari due to its moral principles and its African cultural characteristics. For the past 13 years, members of the Anglo and Hispanic Rastafari communities have made several attempts to gather with their Brazilian counterparts. These attempts were made coordinating the 1st Hispanic Rastafari Summit in Panama 2005. A second round of efforts was made during the coordination of the Royal Rastafari Visit to Chile in 2006. Finally, at the Rastafari Ancient Living and Kulture (RALAK) 9, and the International Rastafari gathering in Chile 2017. The Rastafari fraternity of the Americas sat together to reason, break bread and chant praises in Rastafari ancient African tradition with Rastafari individuals from Brazil.
The gathering in Chile energized several members of the Rastafari Movement in many regions to take action. First, to educate the public in Hispanic America about the true mission of the movement. The purpose to liberate African people from mental slavery via peaceful economic and socio-political intervention. Second, for Rastafari people to become economically independent and use various forums to eradicate from the minds of the public, the notion that the Rastafari Movement is a religious movement. Although, the essence of the Rastafari Movement is fundamentally spiritual, and it should not be mistaken as a new religion. Members of the movement constitute Africa’s royalty, and represent a livity to preserve Africa’s ancient philosophy of wellness for all. The strategic action was to plan, coordinate and mount Rastafari - Pan African photographic exhibits in key Central and South American countries with large concentration of African people.
The first exhibit was mounted in the city of Panama in May of 2018, during the national Black Ethnic Month celebration. Of which, an article of the exhibit was posted on IDOR Newsletter written by Dr. John (Jakes) P. Homiak. The second exhibit is schedule to be mounted in Brazil, May 11, 2019. Using the exhibit in Panama as a template. A Rastafari Elder, Ras Jorge Makandal from Brazil, who participated as a delegate and collaborator, is now organizing the initiative to mount a temporary exhibit in Salvador Bahia, and a permanent one in Rio de Janeiro. These exhibits are intended as media through which Afro-Latin peoples can understand, celebrate and recuperate their African heritage, fully ‘overstand’ the true nature of the movement, and strengthen the Rastafari presence and livity among themselves. The objective is for it to serve as a catalyst for international Rastafari development reasoning. It can be said that the Rastafari – Pan African - Congo exhibit in Panama opened the door for the exhibit in Brazil. However, the task to mount two exhibits, one in Bahia and the other in Rio the Janeiro require a tremendous mobilization of man/woman power and financial resources; and likely coordination with and support from institutions and personnel in Brazil.
I have noted the participation of Ras Jorge Makandal above. But his biography, however, warrants greater elaboration for at least two reasons. Firstly, he is part of a small cohort of Elders in Brazil that should rightfully be considered as the ‘first-runners’ of ‘first time’ presence of Rastafari in Brazil. Indeed, every nation and every people to which Rastafari has spread such a tradition and these are worthy of documentation and remembrance. Secondly, Ras Makandal is not merely a ‘first-runner’, he is a central figure who continues to guide and inspire the community in Brazil today and will be critical to efforts in mounting the exhibit in Brazil with assistance from ones in Chile and the United States.
Ras Jorge Makandal left Brazil at the age of twenty-three in 1975. He traveled by land and reached Mexico before journeying into Europe. He was able to spend time in Peru, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Honduras and Guatemala. It was in Honduras where he came face to face with Rastafari people in the region of Bay Island, on the Atlantic Coast, and lived with them for a short period. Living amongst the English-speaking Rastafari people in Honduras transformed Ras Makandal into a citizen of the Rastafari nation. He then traveled to Europe - first landing in Switzerland in the mid-1976 and later reaching Paris and London where he encountered Rastafari brethren and sistren. Being bi-lingual (Portuguese and French, and conversant in Spanish), he was able to ground with Rastafari in Paris, some of whom had Caribbean roots and had originated in Martinique and Guadeloupe. All of this was during the height of the outernational thrust of Rastafari associated with reggae and its Rastafari emissaries. He later visited Jamaica on his return to Brazil, but hampered by his lack of English, had less success in grounding with brethren.
He claims to be a royal Rastafari imperial guard serving in His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I elite guards, a musician by trade semi-retired who plays the Berimbau, a Capoeira instrument. Currently, he is involved in developing young artists and musicians, and is highly well known and respected in Brazil. His journey in the reggae music led him to perform throughout Europe. Where he was able to share a musical platform with Legendary Bob Marley, on (the) Babylon by Bus tour in France. After many years touring the world in the music reggae arena. Ras Jorge Makandal returned to Brazil and established a Posada (Hotel) named Sana Jamaica, translated into English means Jamaica Cure. The hotel artistic layout depicts a natural scenery and the gastronomy is organically cultivated on the hotel grounds. Also, within the compound of the hotel, he has also built a Rastafari tabernacle from raw materials of the surrounding area. In addition, he and his Queen are jewelry makers. Of which, their jewelry inventory is composed of Ethiopian Orthodox Crosses and Royal military insignias of H.I.M Haile Selassie I security forces.