Rastafarian Symbolism In The Visual Arts

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Rastafarian Symbolism In The Visual Arts

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"Art has the power of liberating man from certain drudgeries and their way of life. A man who was born in the ghetto can't afford to be a Sunday painter, his whole life is involved in getting across his ideas; Rastafarianism, politics, Black culture and all that. Even our meeting here now is an artistic involvement. Some people do art with love here, politics there and so forth; now, to me art is one cosmic consciousness. The way you love, live, and even the way you hate: even your negative expressions connote a certain art-form. So I really do not separate my art from my other sphere of life."-Ras"T"(Barrett,187)

The words of Ras"T", captured by Leonard E. Barrett, Sr. in his book The Rastafarians, are an excellent representation of the Rastaman's struggle to survive as an artist in Jamaica. They also reveal the core concept of Rastafarianism itself; the idea that one is born with Rasta inside them, and a true Rasta lives every second of every day in spiritual contact with Jah, Rastafari. One cannot be a Sunday worshiper of Rastafarianism. For the Rastafarian artist, every stroke of every painting or each chip of wood from the sculpture is inspired by Jah.

Despite the problems such as lack of materials, and difficulties in getting exposure for their work, many members of the Rastafarian movement have turned to artistic expression in order to convey the Rastaman's message, and also as a means of out-letting their spirituality. These expressions include visual art, music, and poetry. In some cases, the Rastas use their artistic ability to create crafts an...

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...t understand the symbolism and the thoughts that are put into such incredible displays of talent. The Rastafarians have contributed so much to their country's culture that goes by unnoticed. In the words of Barrett:"Great social developments are not always made in the halls of parliament or in the citadels of learning. These institutions merely react to the dreams of the creative mass. Some of the most creative trends in nations' development are born in the dreams of the visionaries, the radicals, the seers, and the charismatic prophets."(Barrett, 266). Many of these prophets are artists, and their beliefs are so strong that they are able to rise out of the poverty they live in and project their messages anywhere they will go. The Rastaman will be heard, and through the symbolism discussed in the previous pages, he can be heard. If only people will listen, and look.

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