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Bobo Ashanti, or Bobo Shanti ("Bobo" meaning "black" and "Ashanti" to pay homage to their Asante ancestors of the Akan tribe in present-day Ghana, known for its warriors)[1], also called the Ethiopian African Black International Congress, is a religious group originating in Bull Bay near Kingston, Jamaica. The title of Bobo Ashanti essentially means "Black warrior".[2] The Bobo Ashanti are one of the strictest Mansions of Rastafari. They cover their dreadlocks with bright turbans and wear long robes and can usually be distinguished from other Rastafari members because of this.[3] While some Nyabinghi and Twelve tribe Rastafari drink wine and are either vegetarians or omnivores (eating plants, animals, and fungi), the Bobo Ashanti are all strictly vegan and stick to the biblical restrictions regarding their vow; they also add extra restrictions to their diet, e.g. they do not eat mangoes or sugarcane. Twice each week and on the first Sunday of every month, the Bobos fast. Almost all songs and tributes within the community end with the phrase "Holy Emmanuel I Selassie I Jah I Rastafari." "I" symbolizes unity.[4] Bobo Shanti do smoke marijuana like the other mansions of Rastafari, but do not do so in public because it is a sacred practice to be done at times of worship.[5] Even though it is the "holy herb", production is not allowed in the Bobo Shanti commune as marijuana is illegal in Jamaica.[6]

OriginEdit

The Bobo Shanti were founded by Prince Emmanuel Charles Edwards in 1958 during the period known as the "groundation", where many protests took place calling for repatriation of African descendants and slaves to Kingston. Emmanuel Charles Edwards was the leader of the protests who was to be called King when he was badly beaten by authorities for his action. After this event, he formed the mansion of Bobo Ashanti as a separatist movement from those who did not strictly follow the principles of Rastafari.[7] He established the first Bobo Shanti community in Kingston, which then settled in Bull Bay, where most of the members live today.[8] The Bobo Shanti consider their mansion to be the "Priesthood Order" of Rastafari, as they hold the most radical theology and offer theological training and accreditation. Those who become priests, prophets, or Empresses are to abide by EABIC principles in their home country. The community in Bull Bay is very tight knit and a place of refuge for poor people, as it offers free shelter, food, and education.[9]

Prince Emmanuel is called "Dada" by his followers, which was a name taken from Idi Amin, who was called Idi Amin Dada. Emmanuel is also seen by the Bobos as part of a holy trinity, together with Marcus Garvey and Haile Selassie I.[10] Marcus Garvey is praised by the Rastafarians for his call for pan-Africanism, which looks to unite Africans all over the world and achieve gender, social, and economic equality. In his Farewell Speech in 1916, Garvey announced the future crowning of a Black King, the spot which Haile Selassie filled as the leader of the Black Nation and Messiah. He is considered the reincarnation of the King Alpha, and Empress Menen is considered the reincarnation of Queen Omega.[11]

Gender HierarchyEdit

Bobo Shanti women hold a very interesting, traditional, yet nuanced role in society and compared to other religions and that of their husbands. Similar to traditional religious and cultural standards, men are in charge of work outside the home and the financials, while the woman is to maintain the home life and children. The respective titles of a woman and man in a relationship are "Empress" and "King", "Kingman", or "head".[12] When a Bobo woman is in a relationship with a Bobo man, the woman's head is her King, as the man has the highest head closest to God. Most Bobo women do not feel oppressed by this, but rather believe there is a difference in the creation of men and women.[13] Women must cover their legs, arms, and hair with a turban. Men in the Bobo Ashanti community are considered Priests as they conduct religious services and gatherings. [14]

Bobo Shanti in Pop CultureEdit

The genre of Reggae arose in the 1960s as a form of cultural expression and communication for Rastafarians in Jamaica, especially through the Nyabinghi mansion of Rastafari thanks to the Nyabinghi drums. Reggae grew as a powerful tool to inspire change in society concerning racism and liberalism, a central theme in Rastafarianism. [15] Unlike other Rastafari groups, the Bobo Ashanti are against Reggae music, claiming it is satanic.[16] Despite this, beginning in the mid-1990s, many reggae artists have emerged from the Bobo Ashanti; the most well known among them are Sizzla, Capleton, Anthony B, Lutan Fyah, Turbulence, Ras Shiloh and many others. These artists' actual affiliation with the Bobo community and religiosity is unclear, as some speculate their Bobo Shanti identity is used more as a defining characteristic and fashion statement. For example, Sizzla highlights the dreads worn by Bobo Shanti in one of his songs with lyrics: "Bun fire pon men weh have locks and still nah go Rastaman Tabernacle... you see dem in the clubs and you see dem in the pubs, and they never ever step beneath the Tabernacle roof", suggesting disconnect with faith but still maintaining culture. Capleton embraces the Bobo Shanti's religiosity and resistance to Westernized dress and fashion appearance in his music, with lyrics like, "Call Bobo Ashanti from the hill top, Separate the wolf from the sheep flock." The "wolf" here being Bobo Ashanti, and the "sheep flock" being the West.[17]

Other artists such as Beenie Man commend the work of King Emmanuel, but do not necessarily favor the splitting of the Rastafari religion into branches, with lines like, "Now Emmanuel dead, everything tumble down, The Hill divided in a three, separated bu three sons." On the other hand, there is a trend for young Bobo artists to be heroes or defendants of the Bobo Shanti community. Artists like Capleton remain true to the Bobo Shanti spirit and make statements like, "We, a di whole a we deh inna Selassie family, but Jah."[18]

The conservative and strict nature of the Bobo Shanti is sometimes compared to that of Islamic fundamentalism by the Rastas from more moderate and less strict mansions. Artists such as Midnite and Lutan Fyah have even gone as far as to call Bobos "the Jamaican Taliban", as both artists have used the term "Bobo Shanti Taliban" in their music. [19] The metaphor also alludes to the attire and turbans worn by Bobos, even though they are different in color and style. Bobo artist Junior Reid expresses these ideas in his music, claiming immigration would ask him questions about where he was at the time of the bombing and people mistaking him for an Arab.[20]



  1. ^ Montlouis, Nathalie (2013). "Lords and empresses in and out of Babylon: the EABIC community and the dialectic of female subordination". Retrieved November 6, 2019.
  2. ^ Montlouis, Nathalie (2013). "Lords and empresses in and out of Babylon: the EABIC community and the dialectic of female subordination". Retrieved November 6, 2019.
  3. ^ "Religions - Rastafari: Bobo Shanti". BBC.co.uk. October 21, 2009. Retrieved November 6, 2019.
  4. ^ Gansinger, Martin. Radical Religious Thought in Black Popular Music: Five Percenters and Bobo Shanti in Rap and Reggae. Anchor. p. 21. ISBN 9783960671985.
  5. ^ "Religions - Rastafari: Bobo Shanti". BBC.co.uk. October 21, 2009. Retrieved November 6, 2019.
  6. ^ Montlouis, Nathalie (2013). "Lords and empresses in and out of Babylon: the EABIC community and the dialectic of female subordination". Retrieved November 6, 2019.
  7. ^ Montlouis, Nathalie (2013). "Lords and empresses in and out of Babylon: the EABIC community and the dialectic of female subordination". Retrieved November 6, 2019.
  8. ^ "Religions - Rastafari: Bobo Shanti". BBC.co.uk. October 21, 2009. Retrieved November 6, 2019.
  9. ^ Montlouis, Nathalie (2013). "Lords and empresses in and out of Babylon: the EABIC community and the dialectic of female subordination". Retrieved November 6, 2019.
  10. ^ "Religions - Rastafari: Bobo Shanti". BBC.co.uk. October 21, 2009. Retrieved November 6, 2019.
  11. ^ Montlouis, Nathalie (2013). "Lords and empresses in and out of Babylon: the EABIC community and the dialectic of female subordination". Retrieved November 6, 2019.
  12. ^ Damminger, Rachelle Lynn (April 2007). Exploring the communication strategies among White, American Rastafarian women: A qualitative study of culture, gender and race. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing. p. 52.
  13. ^ Damminger, Rachelle Lynn (April 2007). Exploring the communication strategies among White, American Rastafarian women: A qualitative study of culture, gender and race. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing. p. 52.
  14. ^ "Religions - Rastafari: Bobo Shanti". BBC.co.uk. October 21, 2009. Retrieved November 6, 2019.
  15. ^ Damminger, Rachelle Lynn (April 2007). Exploring the communication strategies among White, American Rastafarian women: A qualitative study of culture, gender and race. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing. p. 12.
  16. ^ Damminger, Rachelle Lynn (April 2007). Exploring the communication strategies among White, American Rastafarian women: A qualitative study of culture, gender and race. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing. p. 12.
  17. ^ Gansinger, Martin. Radical Religious Thought in Black Popular Music: Five Percenters and Bobo Shanti in Rap and Reggae. Anchor. p. 56. ISBN 9783960671985.
  18. ^ Gansinger, Martin. Radical Religious Thought in Black Popular Music: Five Percenters and Bobo Shanti in Rap and Reggae. Anchor. p. 57. ISBN 9783960671985.
  19. ^ Gansinger, Martin. Radical Religious Thought in Black Popular Music: Five Percenters and Bobo Shanti in Rap and Reggae. Anchor. p. 58. ISBN 9783960671985.
  20. ^ Gansinger, Martin. Radical Religious Thought in Black Popular Music: Five Percenters and Bobo Shanti in Rap and Reggae. Anchor. p. 58. ISBN 9783960671985.