Sharon Marley on motherhood, polygamy and Bob's remains

all woman writer

Monday, May 15, 2006

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She has been in the spotlight for most of her life -
the eldest child of an international superstar, an outstanding performer in her own right as a member of a Grammy award-winning group. Now Sharon Marley juggles business interests and raising four children, even as she deals with the divorce from their father.

Now aged 40-something but looking a lot younger, Sharon wants to dedicate more time to what is perhaps her greatest love - children's education.

"I was always very passionate about the welfare of children. I was the eldest child in the family and my parents were often on tour, so I had to take care of my brothers and sisters," she told all woman in a rare interview.

As managing director of Total Care Learning Centre (TCLC) on Lady Musgrave Road in Kingston, Marley lives her dream almost on a daily basis. The spacious, well-equipped child care facility is teeming with bubbly toddlers, looked after by pleasant caregivers.

Marley is 'in her ackee' as she speaks about the Montessori method of learning used at TCLC, which places emphasis on the child discovering their environment for themselves, under the watchful eye of a responsible adult.

"Many of us don't realise they are really small versions of ourselves as adults. They have feelings, they get tired and upset and want to speak out," Sharon says as she gazes at her young charges at play.
Her interest in child care was piqued by her own midwife, the late Sister Iris Vassell-Bougues.

"She really brought me into the knowledge of what's going on inside your body," Sharon says of Vassell-Bougues, who served the Victoria Jubilee and University Hospital of the West Indies for many years.
She reminisced about how the ageing midwife, even though in considerable pain, conducted Lamaze classes from her home.

With her four children now 'past the worst', Sharon is thinking of using her extra time to pursue formal training in nursing. "I love paediatric nursing and midwifery. Bringing a new life into the world is a joyous thing."

She is fascinated with the learning process of the little ones. "To work with children you have to be patient and humble, but you have to know when to be firm."

Anxious to share her knowledge of child care and to learn from others, TCLC has scheduled a seminar for Saturday. Speakers will include Victoria Delilla of the South Florida Montessori Centre in Miami; neurological paediatrician Dr Judy Tapper; executive director of the National Youth Service, Dr Adinair Jones; and Patricia White, coordinator of the Jamaica Association for Children with Learning Disabilities.

Sharon is extremely proud of own children: 21-year-old Donisha; Inglemar, 19; Matthew, 17, and 15-year-old Peter-Shane. "Now they are like my friends. When I go out with them they say, 'Don't tell anybody that you are our mother'."

They all have artistic talents. Donisha is already making a name for herself as an actress; Ingemar is more into graphic arts, and has designed a number of T-shirts inspired by images of his grandfather.
For Sharon though, music will always be a big part of her life. "Music to me is like medicine," she says. "As Bob Marley said 'One good thing about music when it hits, you feel no pain'." Conversation with this Marley is inevitably spiced with such gems.

"I saw Ziggy last week and he said to me, 'When are we going back on the road?'. So I'm thinking it's time to get back in the studio for rehearsals," she muses.

As part of the Melody Makers - along with siblings Ziggy, Cedella and Stephen - Sharon toured the world. But as the Marleys grew older and started their own families, the Melody Makers was put on the back burner and other projects took priority, especially those involving the other Marley children, Damian and Julian.

She too has produced music and videos for other artistes, but doesn't like being up front. "Me? I'm too shy to perform solo."
Outspoken on matters concerning spirituality, she is not toeing the line of Rastafari, which her father helped spread across the globe.
"I grew up in a Rasta family, but when I got older I started to search. I concluded that there is good in every religion, so I don't judge the Jew, the Muslim or the Christian.

I hate to be put in a box. I am a child of the universe.
I don't know what God looks like, but I respect that fact that there is a higher power. If you do something bad, then something bad will follow," she concludes.

The wearing of dreadlocks, the outward symbol of Rastafari, is not that important, she feels, having learnt in Ethiopia that dreadlocks are only worn by holy men.

Sharon is also unhappy about
how Rastafarian women are treated by their men. "I don't like the burden put on some Rasta women. They don't want them to look
good, to wear certain things and wear makeup."

If asked to formally indicate which religion or denomination she practises, she would put 'Orthodox' as she was baptised in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.

She also practises yoga and meditates for 15 minutes before facing the day. But it's not that she is denying that she is a Rastafarian; it's just that, according to her, many Rastas today are confused about their beliefs.
"The part of Rastafari that appeals strongly to me is living a peaceful, humble, healthy way of life, caring for the children and looking after the poor."

She is somewhat conservative on the question of polygamy, which is practised by many Rastafarian men.

"That has been around for many years. I can't change that. My mother didn't fight with any of the mothers of my father's children. But now that my brothers are having children with different women, some of them are not getting along with each other."

Mom Rita Marley created quite a controversy last year by announcing that the remains of her famous husband would be reburied in Africa. She said then that it was always Bob's wish to be laid to rest in
the Motherland.

Sharon's response to the issue is unequivocal. "Anything my mother says goes." She dismisses the notion that her father should remain interred here. "Where were they when Bob Marley was walking barefoot?" she demands. "Where were they when he couldn't get his music played on the radio? There was a time when he was just a Rasta bwoy."

As such, Sharon feels her mother has the right to make the decision on where Bob should be buried, because of his ability to bring peace and unity not only to Jamaica, but to the world at large.

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