Academic journal article African Studies Quarterly

Giulia Bonacci. 2015. Exodus! Heirs and Pioneers, Rastafari Return to Ethiopia

Academic journal article African Studies Quarterly

Giulia Bonacci. 2015. Exodus! Heirs and Pioneers, Rastafari Return to Ethiopia

Article excerpt

Giulia Bonacci. 2015. Exodus! Heirs and Pioneers, Rastafari Return to Ethiopia. Kingston, Jamaica: University of West Indies Press. 482 pp.

Bonacci examines the journey of groups of Rastafari to Ethiopia as "returnees," an ongoing process for approximately fifty years. The terms heirs and pioneers of the title refer to a central point of Bonacci's analysis: that is, "two identificatory terms used by Jamaicans living in Shashemene, Ethiopia are simultaneous and concurrent" and "[they] reflect the tensions and contradictions of black identity and the diaspora experience." The latter term helps to describe the aspect of the experience relating to how one prepares the ways for those coming later, while the first term describes the point of view of one notable community member, Noel Dyer (p. 9).

Bonacci combines interviews with an analysis of music and lyrics, religious texts, legal documents and maps, and histories and other scholarship from various academic disciplines, especially history, anthropology, and religious studies. Archives consulted were mostly in English, Amharic, and Oromo, with a few in French and Italian.

In section one Bonacci focuses on the ideological and social roots of the return to Ethiopia, describing various approaches and beliefs regarding the back to Africa movement, covering analysis of the Bible (especially the books of Exodus and Psalms), and of various political and religious organizations. Among the topics discussed are Black Nationalism, Pan-Africanism, and various spaces and itineraries of return, including lesser frequently discussed locations (e.g., Haiti). Considerable space is devoted to Marcus Garvey and the UNIA, offering fresh insights into his life and work by contextualizing his efforts with significant events. Bonacci respects religion, yet is not shy in describing information that may be controversial or even counter to some belief systems or that may challenge interpretations and reputations of even revered figures--for instance, Garvey's critique of Haile Selassie I and critiques of Garvey by some of his U.S. contemporaries (e.g., W. E. B. Du Bois). A chapter detailing the sources and nuances of Ethiopianism helpfully brings together diverse sources explaining how and why Ethiopia came to represent the many powerful qualities it signifies today for Rastafari and persons of African descent with attention to the USA, the Caribbean, and southern Africa. Bonacci explores how various histories were written/situated, describes the international Ethiopian Church and the foundation of Zion Cities, and probes challenging issues including relationships with the Ethiopian state and race/color in the Ethiopian context. She also details preparatory steps to the return to Shashemene, including the impact of the Italo-Ethiopian war on solidifying solidarity between Africans and the Afro-descended (e. …

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