Excerpt Defining Rastafuturism

Quentin VerCetty
12 min readJun 11, 2020

The excerpt is taken from an essay to be published in Fall 2020

Angel Of Sankofanology. 2020

We must look into ourselves, into the depth of our souls. We must become something we have never been and for which our education and experience and environment have ill-prepared us. We must become bigger than we have been, more courageous, greater in spirit, larger in outlook. We must become members of a new race, overcoming petty prejudice, owing our ultimate allegiance not to nations but to our fellow men within the human community.
- His Imperial Majesty Haile Sellassie I, 1963 (2017, p. 21)


Amidst the beginning of the year 2020, the world was inundated by the pandemic of coronavirus turned disease, referred to as COVID-19. Various news media outlets shared that the disease originated from tainted meats from China, and the spread of the disease was airborne and highly contagious. As the pandemic began to reach all parts of the globe, governments of the world issued quarantines with curfews of civilians in places of major outbreaks, in attempts to quell the disease. Even amidst businesses shutdowns except for what was deemed essentials like grocery stores and many government jobs, in places like Canada and California, many where the consumption of “ganja” or marijuana is legal, many weed shops were allowed to continue to operate as they were deemed essentials as well. During the quarantine, people took to social media for entertainment but also as a solution to deal with the mental stress and as a mechanism for coping with the world’s vagaries. The internet quickly became a hub of inspiration for better health and wellbeing practices. Numerous personalities promoted the medicinal use of cannabis to help with stress and anxiety, along with promoting antiviral herbs and plants like ginger, sea moss, sage, echinacea, and eucalyptus. While some also marketed deepening spiritual connection with meditation and yoga and other wellness practices, additional enthusiasm began to grow for healthier, ideally vegan dietary and hygienic practices. Another phenomenon that emerged was the increase of people growing out of their hair to resemble dreads due to the lack of access to barbers and hairstylists during the quarantine. From the homogenous contents came a funny meme (a recognizable commercial image with a witty text commentary) that went viral that stated by the time the quarantine periods end the whole world will turn into Rastafarians singing Bob Marley’s song “one-love.” This reference to spiritual enlightenment and learning how to be better individuals for the future inspired an internal reflection on the ways that Rastafarians have historically been speculating ways to build a better future through art and metaphysics very much like the ways that Afrofuturism 2.0 has evolved as a Pan-African multi-faceted and disciplinary art education praxis. The most significant aspect that came out of this pandemic isolation was online schooling and the call for the potential homeschooling of students until the global crisis has been completely quelled. This call fueled the notion for the content of this writing about the different solutions Rastafari offers to the world’s future.

From my own lived Rastafarian experience or what is referred to as “innerstanding” of the “livity,” which is the practice of living within Rastafari order, beliefs and ideals (Lee, 2003), along with insight from the works of several other Rastafarian artists who have channeled their livity and futuristic implication into their work as I have, I will introduce to the epistemology of Rastology, the term, Rastafuturism. Rastology was first introduced in a text by Frank Jan Van Dijk (1993) and later used in a documentary called Coping With Babylon: The Proper Rastology (2007) by Oliver Hill, which references the scholarship and study of Rastafari theology, topology, and ideology of the livity that came out of Douglas Mack, Fillmore Alvarenga, and Mortimo Plannos fact-finding mission (Campbell, 1988; Barnett, 2005; 2012). The fact-finding mission was a proposal to legitimize and shift the perception of Rastafari that was agreed upon by Premier Norman Washington Manley in 1961. The mission provided them with the opportunity to visit several countries in Africa and meet His Imperial Majesty (HIM) Emperor Haile Selassie I, which led the emperor to visit the Caribbean in 1966 (Dijk, 1993; Barnett, 2012). Additionally, Rastology came out of Walter Rodney’s 1969 publishing of The Groundings with My Brothers (2019), which came out of his meeting with Rastafari groups in different parts of the Caribbean. At the congress of Black Writers in Montreal, Rodney presented on their feats as a self-sufficient community. Upon trying to return to Jamaica, Rodney was deemed “a serious threat to the island’s national security by the JLP administration” and was barred by the Jamaican Government from entering the country and several others which led to the Rodney Riots across the Caribbean (Austin, 2018; Barnett, 2012). The book came as a message to Caribbean governments and populace, Rodney was a proponent for more insight and consideration for Caribbean governments to stop their violence against the Rastafari communities and to learn from them (Edmonds, 2012; Barnett, 2012).

The aim is to build upon the corollary of Rastology by sketching out the term, Rastafuturism and its orientation to Afrofuturism …

…One of the most famous Reggae Rastafari music artists, the late Bob Marley and Peter Tosh, once sang “Rasta nuh deal with ism and schism” in their 1973 song Get Up, Stand Up. An understanding of the futuristic art educational “-isms” that some Rasta artists intended in their work, will present not only Rastafari in a more informative light but also establish its relations to further academic inquiry as it relates to Rastology, Sankofanology and Afrofuturism as a Pan-African practice and as an art education tool. With the suffix -ism being an indication of a philosophy to consider and side with (Ebenstein, Ebenstein, & Fogelman, 1999), the terminology Rastafuturism is one -ism that Rasta is “dealing” with because as the Rastafari reggae music artist, Queen Ifrica stated in her song TTPNC (2017), “Rastafari is ever-growing, ever-living, ever faithful.”


Dreads and Djembe Love. 2018

Africa is today at mid-course, in transition from the Africa of yesterday, to the Africa of tomorrow. Even as we stand here, we move from the past into the future. - His Imperial Majesty Haile Sellassie I, 1963 (2017, p. 80)

Another COVID-19 related viral sensation on social media platforms came from young Rastafari twin and dub poetry phenomena Ngozi and Tafari (SuperTwinz), who made a compelling performance video and poem called the Corona Crisis (Ting) (2020). In the video, they say, “Put your hands on your chest, and do like the Rastamon and say blessed, no touching, straight wireless!” (Wright., 2020). This double entendre eludes to gratefulness for life and it is the way the Rastafari often greet people. However, it is also a way of practicing good hygiene in this moment of social distancing. to the livity of Rastafari, it dawned on me that orthodox Rastas would perhaps be the least affected group of people to any pandemics, especially one that comes from meat and close contact with people. It made me realize that the future as it is currently looking with the world shifting towards a certain kind of conscious thinking reflecting Rastafari, would be a future that is “blessed.”

Defining Rastafuturism

Atoms of JahQueen by Quentin VerCetty, 2019

As it pertains to the four typologies of Rastafari orthodox-isolated, orthodox-integrated, secular-spiritual, secular-cultural as described by Chakravarty (2015), the rough sketch of Rastafuturism is denoted as the following: The forwarding demonstration of the continuity of Rastas and Rastafari adjacent fulfilling the meaning of the name and title Ras Tafari, which is the ruling creator or the leader who inspires to awe along, with the continuity of knowledge, works, legacy, truth, and memory of His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I and Her Imperial Majesty Empress Menen Asfaw. Rastafuturism is the forward demonstration and existence of Rastafari livity and principles, which includes but is not limited to. In essence, the interconnectivity of all living things referred to as inity brought forth through artistic expressions, holistic natural “ital” and or plant-based health and wellbeing practices, reverence for ancient Pan-African knowledge, spirituality and ancestors; along with efforts towards uniting and decolonizing African people and land along with the denouncing and end of oppression, dependence and miseducation by any type of Babylon manifestation including governing bodies that support anti-Blackness, white supremacy and capitalism in all its oppressive forms. Rastafuturism calls for resourcefulness, innovative thinking, and remembrance that the past, present, and future are not separate. Rastafuturists create with Sankofanology methods to manifest technofossils in all they create, as they always intend to educate, empower, and uplift.

Just as His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I and Empress Menen Asfaw always conducted themselves with foresight in what they put forth into the ether of the cosmos, Rastafuturism calls for the same fulfillment to carry forth the same innerstanding that is not about the individual but rather about the collective. The cultural tools that are common technofossils of Rastafuturism include the emphasis on words, sound, power in poetry and dub toasting, dub music and the notion that music is a metaphysical portal, the usage of ancient Ethiopian iconography including the scripts and languages of Ge’ez, Amharic, and Tigray and new books, monuments or any long-lasting outlets that can be used to represent HIM Emperor Haile Selassie I and HIM Empress Menen Asfaw. As it pertains to artists’ example of Rastafuturist in performance and music is Count Ossie and the Mystical Revelations of Rastafari, Lee Scratch Petty, Lillian Allen, Mutabaruka, D’bi Young, Donisha Prendergast, Morgan Heritage, Ras G, Kabaka Pyramid, Jah9. In the fine arts and film includes Afewerk Tekle, Honorable Everald Brown; Ras Daniel Heartman; Neville Garrick, Daniel Middleton, Tamara Natalie Maddison, Taj Francis, Ras Terms, Jahbu, Malcolm Yarde, Kalmplex, Morag Williams, Kokab Zohoori-Dossa and Kibwe Tavares to name a few. Many Rastafuturists, by default, are Afrofuturists — due to the centralization of Africa and African wellbeing in Rastas’ rhetoric. At the same time, it is arguable that most creative works of Rastafari by default is within the realm of Afrofuturism due to the metaphysics and other shared attributes of both complementary movements.

Relations to Afrofuturism

Freeform by Quentin VerCetty, 2017

HIM Emperor Haile Sellassie once stated, “We must, all of us, look beyond today” (2017, p. 83). This simple statement is the reason Rastafuturism is a branch from the speculative tree of Afrofuturism. Like Afrofuturism, the realms of Rastafuturism includes a diasporic Pan-African lion telling its own tale of the hunt, pursuing to de-center white and Eurocentric narratives of Africa and African people. Rastafuturism, like its progeny, encompasses the same roots of speculative and science fiction notions along with hacking, remixing, enhancing, appropriating to composite reflections that promote Rastafari inity and the livity as well as pro-Blackness and is a proponent of liberated, oppression free Africa. Rastafuturism, by default, engages all the dimensions of Afrofuturism 2.0 (Anderson & Jones, 2016), from the aesthetic that pulls from mostly Ancient Kush and Ethiopian iconography to the metaphysics of mystics of Rastafari, applied and theoretical sciences, social science, and programmatic spaces. Both movements do tend to create romanticized and fantasized ideal of Africa and African people, along with the utilization of Sankofanology. Deeply rooted in the use of semiotic as a coded metaphoric language, both utilize meta-narratives and constructivist attitudes to tell multiple stories, ideas, and realities. An example of this in both entities is the representation of the outer space cosmology that is a metaphor for spirituality and interminable of potential (Womack, 2013).

Distinction to Afrofuturism

Cornation by Quentin VerCetty, 2018

Where Rastafuturism differs from Afrofuturism is in its orientation, as the reference point is centered not on race, but rather, on the way of living in oneness along with a focus on the relevancy of HIM Emperor Haile Selassie I and HIM Empress Menen Asfaw as the center of gravity. Another departure from Afrofuturism is Rastafuturism does not contain any escapism element as Afrofuturism has been critiqued for nor does it project an American identity onto the African continent (Mayer, 2000; Bristow, 2012; Amateki, 2018) or the delusional and false hope of instant changes and empowerment for blacks people globally as suggested in the Mundane Afrofuturist Manifesto (Syms, 2014). Instead, Rastafuturism is about the continuity and evolution of what already exists, no matter where, whether it is on a different planet or Earth, the core principles of inity still can be applied. Rastafuturism’s distinction from Afrofuturism is in the application of the immediate intent of the futuristic works as Rastafuturists’ works always seek to inform and have the function to emphasize tangible and immediate future presents as much as long term and distant tomorrow. The variance in Afrofuturism is very broad and subjective, whereas Rastafuturists works are an extension of the Rastafari principle work. Nevertheless, just as Afrofuturism has been criticized, Rastafuturism is not and will not be exempted, as it is bounded to have its issues due to the various aspects and branches of Rastafari and what it means to be a Rasta and how that may or may not change in the future. However, the main thing that matters is the focus on the continuity of life and the livity as taught and shown by the HIM Emperor Haile Sellassie I and Empress Menen and the many African Ishan (ancient) ancestors before them…

Imported Seeds From The Sun by Quentin VerCetty, 2015.

Excerpt References

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Quentin VerCetty

An award winning visual artists the uses different media to tell stories through the lens of Afrofuturism and Black Speculative thought.