Mythical Pasts: Ethiopianism as a Revitalization Movement

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Mythical Pasts: Ethiopianism as a Revitalization Movement

Throughout history, identification with Ethiopian heritage has been a familiar concept to the Jamaicans who have suffered under slavery, colonialism and social oppression. This concept of "Ethiopianism" includes the appreciation of Ethiopia’s ancient civilization as well as its profound role in the Bible and world history. It has long been manifested in Jamaican culture as a means to identify with a glorious, righteous, and perhaps the earliest of all human civilization. Anthropologist Anthony F.C. Wallace has focused much of his research on the phenomena of Revitalization Movements throughout social history. He has recognized that such movements are characterized by a uniform process and can be defined as "a deliberate, organized, conscious effort by members of a society to construct a more satisfying culture" (Wallace 265). Considering the centuries of severe struggle amongst Jamaican society, from the inhumane conditions of slavery to modern neocolonialism on the island, it seems evident as to why the revitalization of the Ethiopian homeland would be present in the culture and even accelerated within the Rastafarian Movement. Prominent leaders and the circumstances of the times have allowed Ethiopianism to flourish amongst the oppressed masses of Jamaica and gain popular recognition through the lyrics of reggae music. There is no doubt that this identification with historical Ethiopia has served as a Revitalization Movement for Rastafarians within Jamaican culture and society.

It would be impossible to understand the Rastafarian connection to Ethiopianism without first exploring at least a brief history of this ancient civilization. This historical root in a thriving civilization is especially important to discover as Blacks have unjustifiably been regarded as "uncivilized" throughout the centuries. I hope that the following will prove that today, Africans all over the world are descendents of what was once a very highly developed civilization in what is now Ethiopia. However, white populations have attempted throughout history to deny this fact. European scholars of the nineteenth century claimed that those who occupied the area in ancient times were not Negroes but Hamites; this attempt was made in hope of scientifically proving that whites are the origin and basis of all civilization (Barrett 70). African descendents have suffered for centuries due to this "de-negrification" of Blacks and those confusing racial classifications assigned by Whites. The fact that the Ethiopian civilization was indeed a Black one is strongly supported with a quick insight into ancient Hebrew language.

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