July 23rd marks the birthday (or what is referred to as the 'earth day') of the Rastafarian's spiritual messiah, His Majesty Haile Selassie I. The annual Earth Festival, which takes place from the 22nd to 30th July 2017, honours this special date on their religious calender and is a joyous and colourful celebration of this fascinating and vibrant Knysna community. It also serves as a platform for these residents to openly share with others the traditions and roots of their faith.
Judah Square is South Africa’s largest Rastafarian community, and is based in a small river valley in the Khayalethu township of Knysna. It was established in 1993 in a stance of solidarity against the suppression of their religious and social belief systems. Before Judah Square was formed, this community was a largely misunderstood and marginalised minority. After negotiations with the Knysna Municipality, they were granted a portion of land on which to settle, which marked the beginning of their positive and collective upliftment. Although there are many Rasta families living within this community, their spiritual union is such that they are in effect one large extended family.
Judah Square is the administrative Rastafarian capital of the Southern Cape and this annual festival draws both members and non-members from across South Africa and abroad. The festival includes 7 days of Nyahbingh (church) services and then 3 days of music, concluding in the Emancipation Celebration, which celebrates the abolition of slavery (Slavery was abolished in Jamaica on August 1st 1834).
The Emancipation Celebration includes a host of musical acts, dancing and the singing of old traditional songs. Members wear traditional dress and many tell stories and recite poems. This is a family day open to the public, and people are encouraged to celebrate their freedom through various forms of expression. Tourists are welcome to bring their cameras and come enjoy and learn what Emancipation Day is all about.
Mark you calender for this year's Earth Festival, an uplifting celebration of freedom and a visual feast of red, green and gold!