Dreadlocks Story opens up the history of Rastas in a new light. It shows the spiritual history behind the criticized dreadlocks hairstyle and the roots of the Rastafari culture, which is entangled with the Hindu tradition in Jamaica. This topic has never been addressed, but is now divulged!
The documentary was filmed in four countries (France, India, Jamaica and the US) with four different languages (French, Hindi, Jamaican Patois and English) and four local crews. It covers a part of Jamaican
and Indian history. It also gives a new approach to sensitive topics about beliefs and taboos.
There are many misperceptions and judgments about the Rasta way of life, but few have taken the time to understand the meaning behind their behavior. Hairstyle is the most universal and unavoidable form of body art. It is also one of the most interesting and commonly misunderstood.
How and why can it be subject to prejudice and massacre?
If most defend an African heritage, why did the first Rastas mingle with Hindus?
The uplifting Rasta movement began as slavery progressed. Rastafaripledges a response to African heirs to recover and rebuild their culture suppressed by brutal stultifying European domination. Within this context, it is an attempt for the survival of African culture and an up-front anti-slavery, anti-colonial and anti-imperialist struggle. The British colonists ruled in Jamaica until 1962 and in India until 1947, slavery ended in Jamaica in 1838 and Indian workers were brought to the island from 1845 to 1917. Both Afro-Jamaicans and Indians were kidnapped and sent to work on sugar and banana plantations throughout Jamaica where they created positive relationships through their common oppressive hardships. The role played by Indians in Jamaica reminds us that enslaved people have not come only from Africa...What is the original and unique way of life arising from the cross-cultural mixing between the sons of African slaves, as well as African and Indian forced workers “under contracts” in the plantations?
Leonard Percival Howell, known as the First Rasta was the pioneer to speak about Rastafari (1932). He empowered and promoted the belief that everyone is divine and equal through the figure of the Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia.
His first followers were mainly very poor, mentally persecuted people. Jailed for two years by the Colonial Government,
Howell wrote a pamphlet (1935) under a Hindu pen name, which unveiled relevance between the lifestyles of Rastas
in Jamaica and Sadhus (Hindu Holy men) in India.
In 1939, Howell became the first Black man to purchase and own a piece of land called Pinnacle where he implanted a
free self-reliant community for his followers. Since then, the murky persecutions have been incessant to him and to
Rastas with the Jamaica Government acting to erase Leonard Howell from history. After many raids, Pinnacle community was destroyed and totally burnt down by Colonists in 1958. The destruction of this autonomous society caused an exodus of Rastas throughout Jamaica. To wear dreadlocks became a mean of defiance and a blanket of protection against the Establishment.
Today, dreadlocks are not confined to Jamaica but found throughout the Caribbean and Diasporas. Thus, their origins reveal to be secondary to the vital role they are playing to mirror the state of mind of the minority rasta communities
all over the world.
Although some accommodations have been made towards Rastas, the struggle against prejudice and discrimi-
nation are still prevalent.
Information for the Audience:
Several well-known personalities and experts on Rastafari, and a wide range of Rastas, men and women, as well as Sadhus have been interviewed, including:
Writer of the book The First Rasta
Expert in Rastafari and Jamaican culture
PROFESSOR VERENE SHEPHERD
University of the West Indies, Jamaica
Founder, Lead Singer and Guitarist
of Reggae band Steel Pulse
PROFESSOR AJAI AND LAXMI MANSINGH
Pioneer Researchers studying
Indian presence in Jamaica
Eldest son of Leonard Howell,
alias “The First Rasta”
BILL “BLADE” HOWELL
Youngest son of Leonard Howell,
alias “The First Rasta”
Linda Aïnouche interviewed scholars about History of Indians in Jamaica and Rastafari culture.
She has intentionally worked in a challenging male-oriented environment to find out what Rasta people, women and men, from different generations, in Jamaica or abroad, had to say on camera about how they saw dreadlocks, how they regarded Hindu influences in Rastafari history and hence how they talked about their way of life and what discriminations they had to face as members of a minority group.
Indian people and Jamaican people deserve the kudos of their own history! As if ‘Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar’...The British have been quite despicable to kidnap Indians to the Caribbean and to treat them like slaves. Those captured have made great contributions to Jamaican society and to Rastafari movement. Who knows if without Indians, Bob Marley would have met the same success?
ABOUT THE DIRECTOR
Linda Aïnouche, Ph.D, was first an Ethnographer Researcher and Cultural Analyst, specialized in ethnic minorities, misunderstood communities and religion before becoming a Documentary Film Director. She likes to understand the cross-cultural impacts that can emerge between outcast people all over the world. Born in a multicultural family, she has been traveling from an early age and has since lived in several countries. Permanently among different cultures, she juggles with lifestyles, languages, customs and environment like she naturally breathes in.
Aïnouche’s Hindu and Rastafari expertise gives her Dreadlocks Story documentary a unique style that addresses the Indian cultural influences on Rasta lifestyle and covers persecution and misperceptions of the Rastafari movement. Her wide range of fieldwork allows her to work with local people and see a hidden perspective rarely touched on. This gives Dreadlocks Story a richer and more personal spin on a history from the insider’s point of view.
Screenings / Awards: