The last Rastafarians

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle


Rooted in Ethiopian Christianity, the Rastafari belief system emerged in 1930s Jamaica and took hold in Côte d’Ivoire in the 1960s. In an African context, Rastafarians believe in spiritual and political liberation from what they call Babylon – mainstream society, devoted to materialism and ruled over by corrupt and oppressive forces. Sick of police persecution and job discrimination, Rastafarians from all over Côte d’Ivoire started coming to the bleak industrial fringe of Abidjan (Côte d’Ivoire’s biggest city) in 2007 and built a self-sufficient commune. They sold jewellery, grew ganja (though it was not for sale to outsiders, Ras Kevin asserts) and put on concerts by reggae stars, from U-Roy to Alpha Blondy, Côte d’Ivoire’s most popular recording artist. The Rasta Village became a cultural centre, attracting young, middle-class Abidjanais looking for a good time in “the ghetto” (Ras Kevin’s term) and, later on, drawing the anger of powerful interests.

“We thought this was free land,” Ras Kevin says, “but Babylon say no.” In 2012, a Lebanese-Ivorian developer the Rastas refer to as M Zaher claimed he owned the land on which the village had been built. He used his government contacts to have all its wooden huts razed to the ground.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Specialist publicationNew Statesman
Publication statusPublished - 29 Feb 2016


  • Ivory Coast
  • Cote d'Ivoire
  • Rastafarianism
  • Religion
  • Africa
  • socio-economic
  • Politics
  • cultural geography
  • Culture


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