In search of Rasta

Marley granddaughter goes on a journey in documentary

Sunday, February 06, 2011

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DONISHA Prendergast, the eldest grand-child of Bob and Rita Marley, is a young woman on a mission.

Born in 1984, three years after the death of her iconic grandfather, she is acutely aware of the saying, heavy is the head that wears the crown. Therefore, as a granddaughter of the King, she too knows that the position into which she is born comes with responsibility.

Prendergast, the daughter of Sharon Marley and renowned FIFA referee Peter Prendergast, is putting her training in film and video to use, as she pilots a documentary highlighting the journey of a woman in search of the roots and evolution of Rastafari — the 'livity' made popular by Bob Marley.

She notes that her search, which has taken six years and took Prendergast across eight countries and four continents, was prompted during her first visit to South Africa for a youth symposium. "I was constantly asked by young South Africans, 'So what do you do? Sing? Write music? Teach? Make Movies?' I kept responding no to all these questions, and then it struck me, what is my role in continuing the work of my grandparents?," the pint-sized Prendergast recalled.

With questions of her own swirling in her head, she decided to take up the challenge of discovering Rastafari for herself and sharing her journey with others through a documentary.

It so happens that the idea was also alive in another Jamaican resident in Canada, Pat Scarlett, and both combined forces.

The documentary first takes Prendergast to Washington DC, in the United States where she was a student at Howard University. "In DC, what stood out for me was that even though there were lots of people with locks, many did not know what it represented. Women were however more informed," she said. Washington was followed by a trip to Israel in 2009, where she found that Israelis saw reggae as a vehicle to liberation, therefore they saw reggae first then Rastafari.

Prendergast's eyes become even brighter when she describes her trip to Ethiopia. "I am going home," she shouts, "when I went to Ethiopia I saw what Bob was talking about, there is a simplicity of life that I find nowhere else in the world and I loved it." But for her, a woman with locks flowing past her shoulders, the trip would bring home a point made by another Reggae group, Morgan Heritage -- You don't haffi dread to be Rasta. She would not find a lot of Ethiopians wearing locks.

The unity among her Rastafari brothers and sisters was what struck her on her visit to South Africa. "We were in a little village known as Knysna, and inside the compound were all the arms of Rastafari, Ethiopian Orthodox, 12 Tribes, Boboshanti, Nyahbingi, all living in harmony. We should all be able to do that."

On the Jamaica leg of the documentary, Prendergast says she became acutely aware of the struggles many of the early brothers and sisters had been subjected to because they 'said' Rastafari.

Canada was the next stop and for her the diversity of the faith was outstanding. " I saw white Rasta, black Rasta, Japanese Rasta, Indian Rasta, Jewish Rasta, and it was exciting."

In England she found that there was a concerted effort to preserve Rastafari like nowhere else she had visited.

Her final stop was India in December of last year, and noted that she was struck by the peaceful nature of the people.

The documentary which is now being edited, is set for theatrical release in August of this year, but before that there are stops at the Berlin Film Festival in April and hopefully, Cannes later in the year. But she notes that based on the amount of footage and information there may be a series following the release of the documentary.

In closing Prendergast describes the documentary as an honest piece, "nothing is planned, nothing staged, and I hope it will inspire others to go on their own personal journeys."

— Richard Johnson

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