Rastafarians in Ethiopia (Audio Report)

Owner of "One Two" fast food, a restaurant runs by two jamaican friends in Shashamane, Ethiopia. (Photo by Achille Piotrowicz)

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By Megan Verlee

Rastafarian artist Bandi Payne leads visitors through the jungle-like garden that surrounds his house in Shashamane, pointing out the many trees he’s planted in his two decades here.

“That’s guava, my guava tree. Tangerine, banana trees and… that is cassava,” Payne said pointing to the shrubby plant.

Payne was born on the Caribbean island of Saint Vincent, but long wanted to make Ethiopia his home.

Rastafarians – whose religion follows an afro-centric reading of the bible – believe that Ethiopia’s last emperor, who died in 1975, was the Messiah, fulfilling the Biblical prophecy that kings would come out of Africa.

That belief that Africa is the Promised Land makes moving here a life goal for many Rastafarians.

(Caribbean artist Bandi Payne – Photo: Megan Verlee)

“Rich is not the right word for it – it’s more than rich, it’s sweeter than honey, more valuable than pearls the culture, very strong,” Payne said.

But while Rastafarians consider their arrival in Africa a homecoming, Payne said local Ethiopians don’t look at it quite the same way.

“They need to give us a special welcome here, man. People who were taken away from Africa, now they come back home, they should welcome us back. Don’t think they have to have us as foreigners. So we’re working up on that, but it’s an uphill struggle,” he said.

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