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A rastafarian experience

Monday, 19 January 2015 10:29 Written by  Claudia Frey
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A few weeks ago I was staying in the forest with three fellow students as part of a course, and we were catered to by the Green Chefs of Knysna. Our chef on the first night was Ras Maomao - a member of the Knysna Rastafarian community. We were all very happy to hear this since we felt quite curious about the Rasta way of life.

During my school days it was always very cool to have anything to do with Rasta but nobody actually knew anything about it, apart that they have dreadlocks and play reggae music. So now we were sitting there trying to quietly discuss in German (our mother tongue) who should ask all our questions to this smiling man who cooked some amazing food for us.

Obviously there was no reason to be shy, and when we did finally ask, we got into an interesting conversation about the whole religion of Rastafari. Ras Maomao was so friendly and open that at the end of the evning he invited us to come to the Rasta community...

We seized the opportunity and arranged to meet with him at the Knysna Tourism Information Office a few days later.

As we arrived to the Knysna Tourism Information Office he was waiting there in an old green Mercedes and he requested we follow him in our own vehicle. So after driving through the township we came to a security boom in the Ethiopian colors. There, Ras Maomao’s son showed us around; the houses all laid out along a single road.

On the wall along this road there are beautiful large paintings depicting the Rastafarian tradition. Very colourful!

As we walked a little group of kids gathered behind us, and I don’t think I have ever seen young children with such beautiful dreadlocks before. And after the informal tour we came back to Maomao’s place to eat- and Ras Maomao is an amazing cook! As well as the most interesting person to talk to.

He spoke to us about Rastafarian traditions and origins, about his ancestors and his travels to Brazil. It was really interesting to learn about life in the community: the Rastafarian religion branches off from Christianity, and the beliefs are mostly the same. The main difference is of course the smoking of cannabis to attain a higher spiritual level – “to think consciously and unconsciously at the same time”, as Maomao stated.

And when going to the tabernacle everyone brings their own ganja from their backyard to meditate together.

Otherwise, Rastafarians are vegetarians and don’t consume alcohol or tobacco. I wonder what it must be like growing up in Judah Square; what if you’re born Rastafarian but don’t enjoy smoking weed? I experienced the community as a really peaceful place to be, the people are laid-back and there’s the strong feeling of community, and their beliefs make them harmonious.

We talked for a long time with good music playing in the background, and the atmosphere was so nice that I really didn’t want to leave. And then Ras Maomao drove with us to the border of the township in his old Mercedes (Note: I am in love with that car, it looks like it came straight out of a comic book).

I'll admit that I was humbled by the visit to the rasta community and learned a lot. I seriously recommend a guided tour from the Knysna Information Office.


The Judah Square Rastafarian village was founded in 1993, and is the largest Rastafarian community in South Africa. You can do a walking tour of the community and overnight in the Rastafarian community. You also have the opportunity to go on a forest walk with a Rastafarian tourist guide.

Experience the Rastafarian vibe, and learn more about their unique life philosophy. This community hosts the annual Rasfarian Earth Festival, rated by Coopers Travel Guide as one of the 100 greatest events in the world. This is a celebration which gathers Rastafarians from all over the country and the globe. The festival includes music events, as well as a week long program, workshops and churchical events.


Community walking tour: R60.00pp
Forest walk and community tour: R120.00pp
Accommodation: R220.00pp B&B
Dinner, Bed & Breakfast: R300.00pp


Drive up the R339 to Uniondale on the Eastern side of Knysna. Turn down Chunga Street, which is on your left. Drive along this road for about 3km. On your left you will see a turn-off into Nzemeni Street. Judah Square is situated in Nzimeni Street.


Book your own tour of Judah Square:
Knysna Tourism Information Office
+27 (0)44 382 5510

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