Shashamane – On the trail of the promised land

A documentary about Rastafarians who went to Africa will be shown free

Have you ever heard of the Ethiopian city of Shashamane? In light of the current exodus of thousands of Africans for a better life in the West, it seems unbelievable that people with African ancestry have been moving to Shashamane for decades, despite the fact that the city is situated in one of the world's poorest countries.

The call of ancestral roots has seen a rise of people flocking to Shashamane, exchanging the relative prosperity of the Western world for the possibility of living in the land of their forebearers.

Italian director Giulia Amati has made a fascinating documentary about the local community in Shashamane, the community which has been personaly visited and financially supported by Bob Marley. The Czech Development Agency prepared the Czech premiere of this movie to launch on the occasion of Day of Africa. The movie can be seen on May 24 from 20.00 at the French Institute. Entrance is free entrance, and the film has English subtitles.

“We leave Babylon. We're going to the land of our ancestors,” sings Bob Marley in one of his most famous songs, Exodus. These lyrics, still very much alive in Shashamane, deeply influence locals up to today, who still recall his 1978 visit. Marley went so far as to even personally fund the travel costs of several Rastafarians, making their return to the “Promised Land” possible. A combination of Marley's fame and actions caught media interest, placing Shashamane on the map.

Currently, the community has around 200 people, most of whom are Rastafarians, such as Ras Mweya Masimba, who was born in England and moved to Shashamane in 1990. “When I lived in England, a lot of things seemed to me absurd. I saw our people hard working for 60 years, but they were still staying at the same level. They did not have a chance to grow because society told them they should be content to do just that,” Ras Mweya Masimba said.

Now, there is a third generation of people living in Shashamane who believe that life in their ancestral country is crucial. So much so that it is worth sacrificing Western comforts in exchange for a land where electricity, drinking water, schools, hospitals, and other necessities cannot always be counted on.

They live in a country where local people often perceive them as intruders who cannot speak the local language. Still, they think it's worthwhile to try to fulfill their dream of finding a real African identity and a life without racial hatred. Nowadays, when thousands of people are trying to get out of Africa every day, this voluntary journey in the opposite direction is at least admirable.

The first and likely, the only chance to see the Shashamane documentary on a Prague screen is on May 24 at 20.00 at the French Institute. Organized by the Czech Development Agency, entrance to the film is free. Following the screening will be a discussion (in Czech) on African identity organized by the Institute of International Relations. This event is but one part of many activities organized for Africa Day, including the Creative Africa Festival and an international conference organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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