New York: When I met Linda Aïnouche early this year, she was still trying to raise money to complete her documentary titled Dreadlocks Story. But such has been her determination and focus that the independent filmmaker has managed to complete the film. To be released shortly, it is having its Dutch premiere in Amsterdam on November 1, 2014, in Rootical Vibrations, a cultural event that offers the Rasta experience through film, music and food, attended by her via Skype.
The 90-mintue labor of love, written and directed by Linda Aïnouche, reveals the hidden spiritual links between Jamaican Rastas and Indian sadhus. Dreadlocks Story opens up the history of Rastas. It goes into the history of the now smirked upon dreadlocks hairstyle and the roots of the Rastafari culture, which is entangled with the Hindu tradition in Jamaica.
The documentary was shot in France, India, Jamaica and the US with four different languages (French, Hindi, Jamaican Patois and English). It draws upon a part of Jamaican and Indian history. Linda has a PhD degree and is an expert on Jainism, having lived for long with Jains in India.
There are many misconceptions and judgments about the Rasta way of life, but few have taken the trouble to understand the why of what they do, says Linda in her statement about the film. “Hairstyle is the most universal and unavoidable form of body art. It is also one of the most interesting and commonly misunderstood. How and why can it be subject to prejudice and massacre?” she asks. Similarly, for Rastas, as for Indian sadhus, smoking cannabis (ganja) is a spiritual act, to open the gates of higher consciousness.
The Rasta movement began as slavery progressed. Rastafari pledges a response to African descendants to recover and rebuild their culture suppressed by brutal, stultifying European domination. In this context, it is an attempt for the survival of African culture and an upfront anti-slavery, anti-colonial and anti-imperialist struggle.
British colonists ruled in Jamaica until 1962 and in India until 1947. Slavery ended in Jamaica in 1838 and Indian workers were brought to the island from 1845 to 1917. Both Afro-Jamaicans and Indians were kidnapped and sent to work on sugar and banana plantations throughout Jamaica where they forged warm relationships through their shared oppressive hardships. The history of Indian indigent workers in Jamaica reminds us that enslaved people have not come only from Africa.
What is the unique way of life arising from the cross-cultural mixing between the sons of African slaves, as well as African and Indian forced workers “under contracts” in the plantations?
Leonard Percival Howell, known as the First Rasta was the pioneer who spoke about Rastafari (1932). He empowered and promoted the belief that everyone is divine and equal through the figure of the Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia. His first followers were mainly very poor, persecuted people. Jailed for two years by the colonial government, Howell wrote a pamphlet (1935) under a Hindu pen name, which showed commonalities between the lifestyles of Rastas in Jamaica and Hindu holy men in India.
In 1939, Howell became the first black man to purchase a piece of land called Pinnacle where he implanted a free, self-reliant community for his followers. Incessant persecutions followed for him and the Rastas. Pinnacle was destroyed by the colonists in 1958. The destruction of this autonomous society caused an exodus of Rastas throughout Jamaica. To wear dreadlocks became a mean of defiance and a blanket of protection against the Establishment.
Today, dreadlocks are not confined to Jamaica but fly throughout the Caribbean and their diasporas. Although, since Jamaica’s independence in 1962, some accommodation has been made towards Rastas, this minority community’s struggle against prejudice and discrimination continues.
For her documentary, richly illustrated with archival material, stills and videos, Linda has interviewed experts such as Hélène Lee, author of The First Rasta (1999, 2005), Verene Shepherd, Social History Professor at the University of the West Indies, Jamaica; and Professor Ajai Mansingh and Laxmi Mansingh, pioneer researchers of the Indian presence in Jamaica. She has also tried to elicit responses from Rasta men and women from different generations on how they see dreadlocks, how they regard Hindu influences on Rastafari history.
Finally, Linda asks, “Who knows if without Indians, Bob Marley would have met the same success?!”
For the original article, go to The South Asian Times.
For more about Dreadlock Story, visit http://www.dreadlockstory.com and
[Via: Repeating Islands]