Securing Ras Daniel's legacy

BY HOWARD CAMPBELL Observer senior writer

Sunday, May 27, 2012

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RAS Daniel Heartman only had a bit part in The Harder They Come, but for a generation of youth, as well as Rastafarians who were marginalised in Jamaica, in post-independence Jamaica his appearance in the 1972 film transcended acting.

Heartman, who played Pedro, was the first Rastafarian to feature in such a high-profile film but was known in art circles as an intuitive artist. He died in Tanzania in 1990 at age 47, two years after he migrated to the east African country.

His son Ato is on a mission to secure his father's legacy and re-introduce him to Jamaicans 40 years after the release of director Perry Henzell's groundbreaking film.

"The most important aspect of honouring my father is the preservation, promotion and protection of his intellectual property rights," Ato told the Jamaica Observer recently from New York City.

"As an ardent Rastaman, he observed moral law versus Babylon law, so his works have been heavily pirated," he added.

The most pirated Heartman piece, Ato says, is Prince Emanuel, a 1972 image of a Rastafarian boy. It is one of several Heartman creations being compiled by his family for a monograph and travelling exhibit.

There are also plans to launch a line of Ras Daniel Heartman products for licensing, as well as a documentary on his life.

Heartman was born Lloyd George Roberts at the Victoria Jubilee Hospital in Kingston and grew up in the tough community of Whitfield Town. He gave himself the name Daniel Heartman because he was known as 'young Daniel', a preacher in the Church Triumphant of Jah Rastafari; Heartman stood for 'man of the heart' among Rasta elders.

Heartman had no acting experience when he was cast as Pedro, the best friend of Jimmy Cliff's character Ivan, in The Harder They Come.

Heartman never appeared in another film, choosing to concentrate on his artwork. Although it earned him critical acclaim, he never earned substantially from his art and for a time in the 1980s was living on the streets. In the latter stages of that decade, he moved to Africa.

"He went to Tanzania to fulfill the objective of every Rasta brethren and sistren, repatriate to Africa," said Ato, who travelled to Africa with his father. He was with him when he died from anaemia.

Ato says putting Ras Daniel Heartman back in the spotlight goes beyond his skill as an artist or his historic turn in The Harder They Come.

"It is important to understand the impact of the Rastafari culture in Jamaica as he was that cymbal long before the music of the Wailers," he explained. "His imagery carries viewers deeper into the culture of Rastafari."

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