Closer ties needed between Jamaica and Africa, says Prince Ermias
Prince Ermias is flanked by his wife, Princess Woizero Saba Kebede (right), and Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport Olivia Grange during a visit to National Heroes' Park on October 16. (Photo: JIS)

JAMAICA'S reggae icon, the late Bob Marley, has built a bridge linking Jamaica and Africa, but not enough driving is being done on it.

That is the view of president of the Crown Council of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, His Imperial Highness Prince Ermias Sahle Selassie, who wants to see more trade and exchanges between Jamaica and Africa.

"I am surprised that now, increasingly, you see young Ethiopians with dreadlocks, Ethiopian music is taking the form of the reggae beat, so that cultural exchange is also coming into new generations, which is amazing. I wish we could replicate that in sports and other fields, such as the arts," Prince Ermias told the Jamaica Observer during an exclusive interview last Thursday.

According to Prince Ermias, Jamaicans absolutely need to engage more with Africa and he has shared a similar message to people of African heritage in the United States.

He said he was very happy to see that the president of Rwanda Paul Kagame recently visited Jamaica as that was a first step towards greater sharing between the island and the continent.

President of the Crown Council of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, His Imperial Highness Prince Ermias Sahle Selassie, making a point during an interview with the Jamaica Observer at ROK Hotel in downtown Kingston. (Naphtali Junior)

"Because a leader then gives visibility to that relationship, just as my grandfather's visit to Jamaica changed the dynamics of engagement of knowledge, of exchange, of education, so we need to start there; and I think Rwanda is a natural place," said Prince Ermias in reference to the April 1966 visit to the island by the late Emperor of Ethiopia Haile Selassie.

"Bob Marley has gone an incredible way of communicating black pride, history, and also reverence for the Solomonic dynasty and the teachings of my grandfather — which I think he kept alive to a large extent — and we as [the Ethiopian] people have been suppressing it," added Prince Ermias as he noted that there was a time when it was illegal for Ethiopians to have pictures of Emperor Selassie.

The Solomonic dynasty, also known as the House of Solomon, was the ruling dynasty of the Ethiopian Empire formed in the 13th century. Its members claim lineal descent from the biblical King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba

"A lot of people, after the [1974] revolution, they used to bury his [Emperor Selassie] photographs because you would be persecuted for possessing a picture of him, and so whatever they had to say was focused on propaganda, lies, and negativity. They didn't understand the importance of his accomplishments," declared Prince Ermias, who heads the Crown Council which operates outside of the Ethiopian Government, but has always existed representing the monarchy.

He said the council members try to educate Ethiopians about their history which has been under threat, "because subsequent governments that come into power would try to suppress our history, our identity".

Prince Ermias, who was in the island as a guest of the Government to take part in Heritage Week celebrations, told the Observer that this was an incredible exchange because he learnt so much more about Jamaica.

"It is not about the frequency, but the depth that you go into a certain culture because for me heritage is representative of a people. And my interactions with individuals have also helped me understand Jamaica's history and particularly also of their African heritage," said the prince, who was on his fourth visit to the island but the first as an official guest of the Government.

BY ARTHUR HALL Editor-at-large

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