Thu | Apr 18, 2019

Rastafari: a universal philosophy

Published:Sunday | December 23, 2018 | 12:00 AM

In bold and sometimes cryptic language, Tekla Mekfet presents a montage of epistemological arguments that challenge social orthodoxy. Rastafari is hoisted on a heterodox tapestry not only as a socio-political movement, but in Hegelian terms, a quintessential universal - timeless - without beginning or end. It is from this borderless construct that Mekfet's work strives for relevance.

Could You Be Loved is imbued with art and Marleyan existentialism. Rastafari phenomenology, at times shrouded in the arcane, is absorbed into the ideal, hungrily embraced by a people fettered and bridled.

Rastafari, according to Mekfet, is rooted in the elemental core of the universal. It is essentially a divine corpus oftentimes brutalised by the unwise, "The treatment of Rastafari by a significant public relates to primordial philosophy of Mother Earth/Africa being despised, disrespected and persecuted," he pens.

He reproduces an editorial, a reminder of a bitter past: "Public Opinion 20/4/63 Rule by Panic - The Rastafari are unpopular. They are feared, hated, despised and most of all neglected ... on the fringes of society ... Our society cannot leave them alone, but its attention cannot only be the attentions of baton-swinging police. It cannot be the attention of politicians determined to stamp out the Rastas."

Later, Mekfet embraces Kantian fundamentalism. God, he argues, cannot be intellectualised. We are limited in what Kant calls Wissen (knowledge), but it is through faith (Glaube) that we merge with the infinite.

 

Imaginative state

 

Throughout, Emperor Selassie and Bob and Marley are 'hagiographed,' becoming very much the foci of Rastafari praxis. But we are hastened to transcend the corporeal. It is through the heightened imaginative state that Rastafari is experienced.

God, thereto, becomes the summation of a natural and cosmological laws. God is essentially Rastafari, the Power that bestows sacred herb for a fractured people.

Mekfet recalls Marley's invocation: "Got to have Kaya [here] now, for the rain is falling ... turn I loose for the rain is falling."

There is esoteric value to Kaya. Mekfet adds, "Cross-reference significance for Rastafari of the holy herb as 'dagga' among the Bushmen of the Kalahari, of the first people of southern Africa who point East as origin of The Great Ancestor."

Of Marley, we read: "Smok-ing, thus, is a sacrament, a partaking of the divine breath and warmth of a great living mystery. By bringing fire to the lips and drawing its issue within the deepest physical self, he was making it part of his own breath of being he was communing with his intimation of divinity."

Understandably, Rastafari is best reflected in the bosom of the artist.

Adding a heavy dose of ontology to his thesis, Mekfet's offers: "Take note of symbolism in African art vulgarised for tourism ignorance of [black people] and the West [interpretation of African traditions]. An image of Rastafari with penis magnified, so-called 'disproportionate' as the Western mind may see it, is of African art representing dimension of 'spirit' of meaning - Rastafari as of The Great Ancestor/Father of The Tribe, The Magnified Magnificent Great Phallus as symbol of The Great Creator."

The work of sculptor and painter Christopher Gonzales is added to the narrative. Here, Rastafari encapsulates life - from the sublime to its persistent vagaries. "It seems Rastafari decidedly represents humankind universal," Mekfet notes. "The Drummer: Choice of charcoal allows thawing tones of light midst drifting darkness. Emerging out of the chimmering shadows of The Distant Past ... emerging from the expanse of eternity ... looming light ... Rastafari, a percussion instrument of Africa calling the times."

Mekfet delves deeper into Rastafari by raising the spectre of Babylon, defined as a state of mind, characterised neither by nation nor phenotype. Mekfet replays a dialogue between a child and parent: "Wah yu mean Mama? Babylon is white people ... or Babylon is a way of thinking and living oppressing whether you white, black, or whatever? A suh, Mama? His reading, Babylon's Battle for The Mind/I head or 'heavens' or 'seat of the soul.'

Arguably, we labour through this provocative presentation but for our effort, we glean the unimaginable. Rastafari is divinity multiplied: "And you shall become an astonishment, a proverb, and a byword among all nations where the Lord will drive you." (Deuteronomy 28:37)

Exoterically, Rastafari is accommodated and absorbed into divers societies, but as a metaphysical principle, it is hardly understood.

Still, this principle has emerged as one of the great philosophies of modern times.

Copyright (c) 2016 Tekla Mekfet

Publisher: Strategic Book Publishing and Rights Co., LLC

ISBN: 978-1-62857-268-1

Available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble

Ratings: Highly recommended

Book: Could You Be Loved: Bob Marley Lecture 2010 Rastafari-Reggae Bob Marley: Africa Scattered For Rhythm of Spirit of Oneness for the World

Author: Tekla Mekfet

Feedback: glenvilleashby@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter@glenvilleashby