In Her Own Words
Esther Anderson Artist/Filmmaker/Photographer
During the Sixties and the Seventies, I documented our culture through music, dance and photography, while exploring my own representation as an actress in Hollywood and London with artists like Sidney Poitier, Marlon Brando and Sammy Davis Jr. I also placed myself behind the camera as a film-maker, launching my first film at the Edinburgh Film Festival. My collaboration with Bob is the crystallisation of two young rebel souls into one through total art: love, music, photography, cinema, architecture, Ethiopianism and political resistance. We were both radical and uncompromising. Our best creation was our commitment to helping spread reggae music and the Rastafarian message of peace and love to the world. Marley is to me one of the recipients of Jamaican social history, like Paul Bogle and Marcus Garvey. Bob and the Wailers were able to synthesise the struggle of the sufferers in Jamaica.
Their speeches, chants and actions have become universal anthems. As an artist, Bob has been able to ritualise the power of social resistance to oppression, like Peter Tosh, Burning Spear, Third World, and Jimmy Cliff. They all have played an extraordinary, epic role in liberating the energies of resistance. Through my own experiences in the wider world I understood the power of an image to inform, to effect change. It is that power that the photograph of Bob smoking projects out into the world, onto the viewer. It was the first time anyone had been portrayed in that way. As he said he was “partaking of the sacred sacrament for his meditation”. Most of these pictures are unseen works that make up the collection which was used to launch the first two albums on Island Records, Catch A Fire and Burnin’. The image became for Island Records a powerful marketing tool, but for the people an emblem of deliverance and freedom.
About the Exhibition
A Rebel Prophet documents Marley’s rise as a political rebel, a freedom fighter and a musical poet through a series of photographs taken by Esther Anderson, Jamaican film-maker, photographer and activist. In this series of photographs, Anderson documents Marley’s becoming. A transition from a street poet, a rebel who was political, but initially resisting the fact that he was and ultimately the man that he was to become; the voice of the Third World.
Time Magazine and the
BBC named him “Artist of the Century”. At this time, he had not yet evolved into the Rastafarian that he would fully become a few years before his death. In 1973, when the pictures were shot, Marley, the Wailers and reggae music were still unknown to the world.
Anderson and Marley unceasingly collaborated as both artists and lovers for a period of six years. She was committed to helping spread his music and message to a global audience. It is a personal journey, with Anderson as the narrator taking the viewer to the Caribbean islands, to Jamaica and to 56 Hope Road, Kingston. Anderson’s work is not pandering to the fans who know Bob Marley as a music icon. She became an agent willing to reveal Marley beyond music, and how readily his message was conceived by millions.
Marley operated not so much through a means of dissent, but a natural freedom from any strained campaign, pervading the masses indiscriminately. It was a lucid progress that permeated many minds and continues to do so to this day. Revolutionaries have used different means of becoming and instilling change; Marley took it beyond the sonic pulse, which amassed the disenfranchised and, in one voice, summoned to a mass communion of change, fellowship, and freedom.
This is why his message remains relevant in the turmoil of the present; a true shepherd is needed once again. Marley was an immensely political figure despite his protestations to the contrary. He was certainly regarded as such by those jockeying for power and influence in Jamaica.
The hypocrisy of the colonial rule was a constant theme in Marley’s work. He rallied against injustice and inequality, consolidating the words of a brilliant speech Selassie had delivered at the United Nations in 1963 into his song
War. In a country dominated by corrupt, divisive and often violent patronage, he called for reform, awakening and social change.