I have always wanted to learn more about Rastafarian Culture, who they are and what it is they believe in.So when I heard that Rastafarians had been given a place to call home in Ethiopia by Empeor Haile Selassie in 1948-I had to visit. Finally I would get to meet and interact with real Rastafarian
It is a 20-30min ride from Awassa and costs about 10 Bir.The bus-park you drop off at is busy-super busy. After several failed attempts to ask for direction (told you they speak Amharic), I finally found a lady to asist. She advised me to get a bajaj and tell them I want to see Rasta which is what I did and finaly, about 5 min from the bus park I arrived. Its actually located along the highway.
Things to do in Shashemene:
1.Visit Twelve Tribes of Israel
Start your trip here. This place will give you great insight into the Rastafarian culture. I met one of their leaders who at first was unsure of my intent. He was amused when I told him I had traveled that far just to learn about Rastafarians. And trust you me, over one hour later and hundreds of questions from me, we had become friends that I was granted permission to take pictures (which they usually don’t allow).
He was graceful enough to share lots about their faith,their beliefs and their culture. Very grateful to him and the rest of the Rastafarians I met. They have changed my mindset on Rastafarians-these guys are friendly, warm, funny and smart. I left there challenged to read my Bible more as this guy knew it like the back of his hand. It was interesting to learn that just because someone has dreadlocks, or listens to Reggae or claims to be Rastafarian doesn’t make them Rastafarian. A real Rasta lives by the tenets of Rastafarianism. It was great learning Rastafarianism from real Rastafarians and I now have a new appreciation of them even though I didnt compeletely comprehend all I learnt.I highly recommend a visit here. Some of their teachings include:
a)They read the Bible -Yes the Christian Bible. I was impressed and even more when I heard/read their motto-Read your Bible, One Chapter a Day.
b) The Twelve tribes of Israel
Theyare derived from the twelve sons of Jacob. The colours on the wall represent each son. Thus, since I was born in March-the last month in their calender (April represents the month the first son was born), my colour is black and thus would make me from the tribe of Benjamin (according to them ) and my nickname thus became Benji after hanging out with some of them.
c)Most of those living here have come from the Caribbean, to Ethiopia which they refer to as their home-Rastafarian home. I asked one gentleman if he missed his home country and his response was interesting “How can I miss Home, yet, I am Home.”
d)Do you know there are various types of Rastafarians i.e.Bobo Ashanti, Nyabinghi, Twelve tribes of Israel among others each with different rules and regulations. I definitely need to revisit so I can learn more on the other groupings.
Say No to anyone who tells you “Do you want something Nice?“,I can get you something Nice.This is code word for –they can get you drugs. When I got off the Bajaj, a young man spoke to me asking where I was headed.When I told him I was looking for Twelve Tribes of Israel, he said he would escort me.Though first skeptic, I accepted his offer to direct me and eventually he ended up being my guide around Shashemene once my new friends (Rastafarians at twelve tribes of Israel) vetted for him. As we walked, several young men popped from everywhere , I guess word of a stranger had gone round- all asking to be my guide and they could get me “something nice.” Some looked unkempt and high and I was a bit scared for a minute. I am happy I was with the young man as he told them he was my friend and they left us alone. Eventually my curiosity got the better of me and I asked him to show me this “something nice” . Lo and behold, I came face to face with “marijuana” aka “weed” aka “ganja.”
I write this not to make you go out and look for it but to warn you in advance-I wouldn’t want any of you my fellow travelers to get in trouble innocently. I was wary as I had been informed of this tactic prior.
…..*Disclaimer-This is marijuana best known as weed or Ganja. I did not purchase,touch,taste or smell the above.I do not do drugs and it is illegal to smoke or possess weed in Ethiopia.
4:Visit the Banana Artist
The artist is Ras Haile Tefari best known as Bandi and he is famous.This guys artworks are really really good, you wont even believe they have all been done with bananas including the colouring. He has lots of pictures, magazines of old and several pieces of art .His home is surrounded by lots of flowers and plants and he is warm and friendly. If one wants to learn the art, he can teach you.
Go to the local restaurant, food place or shop.Talk with the people, laugh and make friends.
I clearly have unfinished business with Shashamane and thus will have to return. I need to interact with more Rastafarians to learn about the other grouppings like Bobo Ahanti , Nyahbingi and more of Twelve tribes of Israel. I also want to interact more with the locals of this area as time didnt allow me enough time.