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JIS News

The global impact of Rastafarianism and the attendant influence of the Jamaican culture were on full display this past weekend in Washington, D.C., with the opening of the Rasta Marketplace on Saturday (February 23), at Washington’s historic Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History (NMNH).
The marketplace drew thousands of adherents of the Rastafarian movement, local supporters, as well as regular visitors to the museum who were able to view sculptures, paintings, crafts, music, graphics and jewellery, which focused on the symbols of Rastafarianism as well as its beginnings in Jamaica. A familiar theme depicted in several of the paintings which were featured, focused on life in the country of Ethiopia, which is recognized by Rastafarians as their ancestral homeland.
A special feature presentation at the marketplace also sought to highlight and explore the ties between Hebrew symbolism in the Old Testament and its strong influence on contemporary Rasta culture. The exhibit, which depicts the life and religious practices of Rastafarian elders in Jamaica, as well as adherents living in Israel, highlights the significant commonality between Rastafarian artistes in both countries, and is underscored by the similarities in lyrics and performance styles.
The Smithsonian also featured a special screening entitled, ‘Coping with Babylon’, which looks at the diverse cultural landscape of contemporary Rastafarianism and emphasises the many voices and ethnicities that constitute the global movement. The film focuses on foundation leaders in Jamaica, scholars who have focused on the Rastafarian culture, as well as an array of performing artistes, including reggae luminaries, such as Bob Marley and Peter Tosh. The Rasta Marketplace is a component of a year-long exhibition spotlighting Rastafarianism and features several artefacts and rare photographs from other established collections. It focuses on the history of Rastafarianism and also highlights the life of Emperor Haile Selassie I and, in addition to Bob Marley, highlights other major Jamaican political and cultural icons, including National Hero, the Right Excellent Marcus Garvey.
In addition to the mounted exhibits, the museum has also provided information on the origins and religious practices of the movement in Jamaica as well as the roots of the Rastafarian culture.In order to provide the American public with a range of perspectives on Rastafarian life and institutions, the exhibition has also provided several video depictions of current Rastafarian communities both in Jamaica and in Shashemene, Ethiopia.
The NMNH, which is hosting the exhibition, is part of the Smithsonian Institution and was opened in 1910. The green-domed museum was among the first Smithsonian buildings constructed exclusively to house the institution’s collections and research facilities.