Marriage of the Dread
The most crucial trick is to keep the Rastafari Woman, from ascending to her spiritual heights as Queen Omega and African Queen, Mother Earth, Mother Nature Herself! This was accomplished by stealing away the majority of woman who entered into the Rastafari Way of life during its early days, back into Babylon through the jailing of many Rastafari and leaving the woman unprotected, the
starting of a whispering campaign leading to the scorn of the Rastafari woman by her family and society and the denial of the Rastafari of a land base and Woman and youths being stability to a Movement. The overlords, therefore encouraged the Rastafari Movement to be nomadic, in order to discourage women from entering
it and stablizing it.- Fariak Birhan, Who is the Rastafari woman?
Mandisa at SW Radio Africa started me thinking about this by asking all those questions about women in the Rastafarian society. No doubt, she has read all that drivel by self-styled experts- I hear there is even a whole book about the Rastafarian woman is oppressed but I haven't read it myself. What she did not delve in to is why there are not that many Rastafarian women in Zimbabwe. Most people have never even seen one.
Could such horror stories- contrived to misinform- be the real reason why there are few Zimbabwean Rastafarian women? Well, I think that they are only part of the reason. It is not paranoid to say that there is a concerted, tacit conspiracy to prevent women from entering the movement. And these tales are just a part of that.
A backbiting tongue hath cast out virtuous women, and deprived them of their labours.
The media has tended to avoid fostering the idea that the Rastafarian culture is wholesome, family-oriented, the sort of thing that a decent girl can take up. With the established stereotype of the Rastafarian male as unkempt, vagrant apostate from the established religion and given to all manner of criminal activity the fact that no well-brought up girl would want to have anything to do with this went without saying. Look at that video by gospel singer Fungisayi- and she is the symbol of the perfect Zimbabwean girl. A girl announcing to her parents that she was going to be a Rastafarian from now on, why that was the same as coming out as gay or something. Certainly a lot worse than having baby out of wedlock.
My non-Rastafarian friend Gilbert would often express his exasperation that I did not seem to be aware of this as we began to get in to relationships. And in retrospect, I think he was right; I should not have been so naive as to assume that I could walk up to any man and say, Hello, I would like to marry your daughter. Perhaps the shock at the battle I had to put up for the woman I entered in to a customary-law marriage with- a battle I was doomed to lose anyway- would not have been so great, so scarring. But as I always said to him, one way or the other, I am damned already. I could let my sense of damnation get to me, or show a brave countenance for there is always hope.
And damned I was. My in-laws reluctantly agreed to the marriage- it emerges that circumstances had more to do with it than a genuine change of heart. There was also the feeling that in getting married, I was abandoning the Rastafarian way of life- how this is worked out is beyond me, and Gil long gave up trying to explain that one. It also emerges that while the girl had told me of her willingness to convert, this was not what she told her folks. Was she afraid of their reaction? They would have been disappointed, surely. But since the problems we had had were down to my Rastafarianness, a more logical guess would be that she had told them I was ready to reform.
This would make sense of the conduct of my own family in the matter. Boldly they came in, in my absence, and made it clear to her that they did not approve of my being Rastafarian. She was taken to the family church, even though I do not go there. Many years before, exactly the same thing had happened to an elder of the Nyahbinghi House in Chitungwiza and he had finally poured out his heart to me on the matter, with a warning against marrying outside the Faith. One of my brothers, who is learning to be a pastor or something at one of these clap-hands churches, would take time to have what he called "Bible lessons" with her. I suppose she took priority over all the fornicators, drunks, paedophiles, fraudsters and so on that make up the bulk of our relatives- she was on her way to becoming a Rastafarian.
For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts,
II Timothy 3:6
To cut that part of a long story short, the marriage ended before it began. The official version is that this is further proof that Rastafari is all about urombe- Masimba cannot even keep a woman. For me, it heightened my awareness of damnation. On the one hand, I could have remained in the relationship and watched her become a total stranger and take the kids with her. I have seen that happen to many times in the Rastafarian community, and it tore me up every time I saw it. I don't know why I never thought I would one day confront the same prospect. On the other, I am 30 years old, unmarried and with no foreseeable chance of ever getting married. I am also the eldest in the family. The brother who comes after me got married two weeks ago- not a peep of protest over his decision not to have the wedding in the family church, although I am sure I would not be similarly indulged if I were to find someone and have the Rastafarian crowning ceremony as pictured above- which is based on the Orthodox tradition. I can visualise them all cringing at having to explain to people. Which is what it's all about, isn't it- what will people say, the Musodza Son is a Rastafarian!! Already, people are saying that the Musodza Son doesn't want to get married, he prefers this pursuit of subcultures.
This tacit conspiracy to prevent Rastafarian unions is a more effective weapon against us than all the police brutality, the discrimination in recruitment and all these other things they do to us. It is tantamount to genocide- how does that sound, brother, when you snuck up behind me and literally seduced my wife you might as well have been one of Pharaoh's hatchet-men trying to keep the population of Israel at manageable levels? But that is what happened.
Am I bitter? There isn't a clear answer. I am bitter that being bitter won't help me. Won't get her back. Nor will it prevent the same thing happening again, as it surely will. Maybe this is why I sort of keep to myself now- I meet a lot of attractive girls, but I erase their numbers as soon as they've given them to me. If there was a way to fight back, get people to back off, I would.
I sometimes tell myself that there are Rastafarian girls out there. Probably facing the same adversity, nay, a million times worse. Zimbabweans have taken the victimisation of women to dizzying heights. I met this lady once at one "hotel" in the Avenues, next to Kaguvi Building. She was a prostitute, but I could see she was a Rastafarian- I can tell the difference between someone with locks and the real thing. I asked her how she had come to this. She had married a Rastafarian, against her parents' wishes and they had disowned her. When he had died suddenly, she had no where to go and no means to take care of her children. Rage boiled in me, rage not only at how anti-Rastafarian prejudice had done this to her, but the collective Rastafarian community's failure to defend the vulnerable. In those days, I was too much of a coward to have been able to live with a woman that I knew I had met selling her body in the city. And Idid not have the financial means to assist, for I feel that she was entitled to my assistance, whether we were in a relationship or not. Whatever fate has befallen her, I doubt that it is a happy one.
Meanwhile, all those Zimbabwean girls who are intrigued by Rastafari and look around for role models find these wretched, defeated souls.
But going back to my marital problems, I am still of the belief that I am entitled to have a family on purely Rastafarian terms. Mindful of the challenges, I can see that the other half of this envisaged marriage would have to be just like me- resolved to fight for our lebensraum. She would also have to be aware that much of the adversity will be targetted at her, because of the perception that she is weaker. She would also be confident that I am ready to defend her.
In the meantime, well, I guess I am going to be the one who writes that book about cold showers. As Arrested Developement says in their song, I patiently wait for someone I can reachMany sisters don't understand my styleI live my life in an outcast tribeA tribe that strives to see a brighter dayI forsee that I'll walk with closed eyes... until Dawn, Dawn of the Dreads
Apart from Mandisa's questioning, why am I bringing all this up? Well, maybe I am tired of pretending out of pride that I walked away unscathed. Maybe I just realised that it is perfectly normal for a Zimbabwean Rastafarian man to be in this situation, and so can now talk about it freely.
See you on my wedding day.