Africa Celebrates Marley

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Celebrations to mark the 60th anniversary of the birth of the late reggae superstar Bob Marley have moved into full swing. Art and photo exhibitions, as well as a symposium on African history based on themes in the music legend's songs, opened on Wednesday.

Thousands of reggae fans and dreadlocked followers of the Rastafarian movement that Marley championed jammed the Ethiopian capital ahead of a gala concert on Sunday, while smaller events were held. Rastafarians regard Ethiopia as their promised land. Speakers at a symposium, entitled "Africa Unite", were quoting Marley's reggae anthems War - which decries the European colonisation of Africa and racism - and Exodus - which celebrates freedom from oppression - as reference tools in the discussion. Elsewhere in Addis Ababa, a collection of rare photographs of Marley's life and music was on display as well as an exhibition of the works of more than 30 sculptors, craft makers and jewellers.

The celebration kicked off on Wednesday at an opening ceremony attended by Marley's widow Rita, the grandson of former Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie - the spiritual leader of the Rastafarians, and Hollywood star Danny Glover. Others included members of the Rastafarian community, local leaders of the Orthodox and Muslim religions and the mayor of Addis Ababa, Arkebe Oqubay, who granted Rita Marley honorary citizenship of the city.

"I am greatly honoured to receive this award and know that this is brother Bob's dream come true," she said. "We are calling on all the children of Africa to unite as one." Marley always believed that Africa was his spiritual home.

Ethiopia, home of the African Union and birthplace of Rastafarianism, was chosen by Marley's family to host events marking what would have been his 60th birthday on February 6. Previously, the annual celebration has taken place inside his native Jamaica. Adherents of the Rastafarian movement regard former Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie (Ras Tafari) as their spiritual leader, and two years before his untimely death from cancer in 1981, Marley visited the country to pay homage.

"It is a matter of justice that Bob Marley would be celebrated today in Ethiopia," Prince Beede Mariam Mekonnen, grandson of the former emperor, said on Monday. Festivities this week include a concert by I-three, Marley's backing singers, and Angelique Kidjo, a singer from Benin.

The highlight in Addis Ababa will be an open-air concert on Sunday in the city's biggest square by members of Marley's family, Senegalese singers Baaba Maal and Youssou N'Dour, Kidjo, and Ethiopia's Teddy Afro.
(Independent Online
www.iol.co.za)

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