Commentary Jamaica Magazine

Is Rastafari the world’s view of Jamaica?

Recent events have me asking the questions “Is Rastafari all Jamaica has to offer the world?” The news media and business organizations have stereotyped the word Jamaica to mean Rastafari. It seems the world’s view of Jamaica as a place where Rastafari is the only thing that can be identified as Jamaican. 

The new wave of the Rastafari stereotyping of Jamaica started with the German elections last year. None of the political parties won the majority of the votes to form the government. A new government could only be formed through a coalition. The coalition that was likely to be formed was that of 3 parties that are represented by the colors black, green and gold (yellow); the colors of the Jamaican flag. Hence it was called the Jamaica coalition. Everything would have been just fine if they had stopped there. Then Germany’s leading daily newspaper published photo caricature with the party leaders in dreadlocks, tams and Rastafari colored clothing. Soon there were photo caricatures with them smoking ganja. Then it became the Rasta coalition. It was not a very flattering representation of Jamaica. 

The stereotype continued with the winter Olympics. It seemed like there were one-liners everywhere about the Jamaicans bobsled team smoking weed. It was bad enough that they did not qualify because of funds (I found that strange being that they have the popularity to raise the most funds) but not making a public statement to explain why there was no team fanned the jokes. It probably lead many to believe they were all ‘dreads” who smoked weed. They were busy smoking ganja so they did not have time to participate in the Olympics. The reference to Rastafari again was all over the place. 

Next came Portia Simpson winning the leadership of the PNP. Her main opponent Peter Philips is a former Rastafarian. This was many years ago. Well the press seemed to be more concerned with him being a former Rastafarian than Portia Simpson being the first woman to be the Prime Minister elect and the leader of a major political party in Jamaica. Almost 25% of the Associated Press news story on this historic event focused on Peter Philips being a former Rastafarian and what Rastafarian believes about smoking marijuana. The first line in the story stated with Rastafari and the last in the story ended with Rastafari. 

Well I thought that would be it with the Rastafari but Nestlé Jamaica’s took it to another level. They announced the launch of their new product called ‘Rasta Ice’. Need I say any more?

All this “Rastafari” talk has me wondering. Is Jamaica just about Rastafari? Is this the only way to market Jamaica? How do Rastafarians feel about being used to market everything Jamaican? Is Rastafari the first thing that comes to mind when the rest of the world hears “Jamaica”?

About the author

Delano George Bell