The Sunday Mail
Ras Good I
Zooming into Chileka International Airport on July 22, 2015, I tried my best to recapture the passing images exposed to me concerning a previous occasion of Emperor Haile Selassie I’s arrival at the same terminal 50 years earlier.
But there was a world of difference to that historic 1965 visit, much as I tried to fit in His Imperial Majesty’s hallowed shoes.
Whereas the praise-worthy Ethiopian sovereign ruler had been treated to a loving state embrace, a single brethren from the Nyabinghi society in Blantyre was at hand to receive us.
With me were nine other Rastafarians from Zimbabwe, among us two sistrens, all buzzing over what lay in store for the seven days that we would be religiously domiciled in the warm heart of Africa.
We were in to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Emperor Selassie’s state visit to Malawi, the occasion being the annual Rastafari International Gathering held in Southern Africa for the second time after the first in South Africa 19 years ago.
Ras Istar coolly drove us to the centre of Blantyre and accorded us a most hearty “warm-come” in the true manner of the Rastafari culture which saw us remain his guests for two more days while thanksgiving at the shrine out on the city’s northern hills.
After much feasting, on the third day we hopped on the bus for the long road to Salima, a major trading centre that lies 230km south of Blantyre, and the nearest town to the hub of the celebrations at Senga Bay.
The rest of the faithful coming from far-over places had already assembled and festivities were firmly underway with pots and dishes full while much chanting and ululating came from the hilltop tabernacle overlooking the great and fabled Lake Malawi.
A solid three ‘lights’ and three nights went by with the ‘lions and lionesses’ hardly finding sleep due to the range of captivating activities that would not allow one to do as much as catch forty winks.
On these fiery days various teachings and testimonies were given by high priests from different Nyabinghi houses with Zimbabwean elects also sharing in the public speaking. Attendees could be seen jotting down notes as some of the life skills dispensed by the elders will not be easily found in any book of life.
On the sixth day we set out with other congregants for Zomba via the M1, Malawi’s main north-south highway. Out there we made the ‘dreadful’ climb up Zomba Plateau, the country’s second highest peak after Sapitwa, which itself is Africa’s second tallest free-standing mountain.
The Zomba Plateau is the city’s most famous feature. In some parts, it rises to 1800m in height and the very top is criss-crossed by streams, waterfalls and small lakes. It is here that Emperor Haile Selassie gladiated during the spare time of his memorable visit to Malawi.
At the top of the plateau, where it is possible to sight Lake Chilwa to the north, Mount Mulanje to the southeast and the Shire River to the west, His Majesty rested and the site was marked as Emperor’s View to this day.
We all took part in sprucing up the area, engaging in grass-cutting and erecting stone benches and an altar in reverence to this cherished spot that is and should be one of the main tourist draw card of the mystic mountain.
After the customary Nyabinghi drum-beating and chanting we finally descended to Zomba’s Chancellor College, the largest campus of the constituent colleges of the University of Malawi, which had prepared an academic forum between students, lecturers and Rastafari scholars.
The bandwagon next moved to Blantyre for the official closing day of the event, there to be entertained by a range of musical artists ranging from our very own reggae outfit Crucial Mix, led by Ras Jabulani, to Malawi’s most popular singer Lucius Banda and showcasing other local, regional and international acts.
For any Rastafarian who graced the seven-day celebrations of the Rastafari International Gathering this visit will stand in time as the most spiritual fulfilling exercise of the year.
Ras Good I is the Ilect of Records at the Ngoma Kurira House of Rastafari in Domboshawa. He can be contacted at: [email protected] <mailto:[email protected]> or cellphone: 0733 856 198