UCL Institute of the Americas


UCL Americas UG student's blog on Rasta Religious Traditions in The Gale Review

25 November 2021

Collage with the covers of issues of 'Rasta Voice' and 'Rasta Vibrations' magazines

We are delighted to share news of the recent publication of 'Unearthing and Decolonising the Rasta Voice' by Year 3 undergraduate student Robert Youngs do Patrocinio. His piece focuses on raising awareness of the Rasta struggle to practise their religion, using Gale’s Archives Unbound collections as his main archival sources. The Gale's Archives Unbound collections are an extensive database of primary sources included in Gale Reference Complete, available to many higher education students to facilitate their research. It currently comprises 382 collections (more are added each year), and includes a compelling collection titled: Rastafari Ephemeral Publications from the Written Rastafari Archives Project.

The Rastafarianism movement can be traced back to its beginnings in 1930s Jamaica and its strong connections with the coronation of the Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie (1930) who remains a principal figure in the Rastafarian religion. As the political cartoon below illustrates, the Rasta faith is rooted in an ideology which believes that Africa is paramount to black individuals obtaining freedom and escaping their physical, spiritual, emotional and historical oppression and struggle against slavery. As a religious belief system, I think that it is important to become mindful of Rastafari traditions and invest time in accessing elements of this culture, due to the significance of its relationship to the black experience and post-slavery trauma.

Rasta Religious Traditions

Internationally recognised by the songs of Bob Marley and Dennis Brown, the Rasta community’s message has spread globally and is perceived mainly through reggae music. Important messages about black liberation and oppression are expressed in songs such as Buffalo Soldier, Get Up, Stand Up and Revolution, but to what extent do we really understand this complex movement? Beyond the “locks” and the “ganja,” do we appreciate that central to this rich belief system is the notion of the “holy herb” which is essential to their religious rites and rituals?

Rastas lifestyle choices are religiously motivated and rooted in a central message relating to peace. Ganja, for example, is central to their religion, and is considered to be a “wisdom weed” allowing individuals to reach an important meditative state of higher connection to their spirituality and faith. But, when researching this using Gale’s resources, In an article from the 1970s – a time when Jamaica was home to only 7000 Rastas – entitled 'God is Black and is Living in Ethiopia' which describes how 'most avenues of work are closed to [Rastas] because they wear dreadlocks and smoke marijuana.' This highlights the historical discrimination the Rasta community faced, which has since intensified in Jamaica and around the world, even though their numbers have now grown to over one million. Discriminatory attitudes towards Rastafarianism have resulted in in their religious culture becoming synonymous with illicit drug consumption, and Rastas being the subject of scrutiny by the authorities. This is further exacerbated by the ignorance surrounding their choice of hairstyle that contributes to fuelling a prejudice resulting in their social isolation as an outcast community.

You can access the full article via this link.

Collage of newspaper cartoons: pic 1 depicts a foot (representing Free Africa) kicking out a character representing of Uncle Sam with a bag of money; pic 2 depicts Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie as the embodiment of the African continent

Robert Kene Youngs do Patrocinio
About the author


Robert Youngs do Patrocinio is currently studying History and Politics at the Institute of the Americas and is in his final year of his undergraduate degree. So far, he has enjoyed the interdisciplinary nature of his academic course, which has allowed him to continue pursuing his love of languages including Portuguese, French, and Spanish, as well as a range of other interesting modules. His dissertation is focused on Brazilian human rights, specifically in regards to indigenous communities and the climate crisis. As a Gale Ambassador at UCL, he is enjoying contributing to their blog, The Gale Review, along with the opportunity to apply the research and study skills he has acquired at university. His LinkedIn profile can be found here


Gale’s Archives Unbound | source catalogue

Gale Reference Complete | source catalogue

Rastafari Ephemeral Publications from the Written Rastafari Archives Project | Link to research project archive

'God is Black and is Living in Ethiopia' | Link to article facsimile, one of the sources in the author's research

'Unearthing and Decolonising the Rasta Voice' | Link to article in full

BA History and Politics of the Americas | prospectus page

Link to Robert Youngs do Patrocinio' LinkedIn profile


[top] Collage of magazine covers: Rasta Voice and Rasta Vibrations ©Gale Reference Complete

[middle] Collage of newspaper cartoons ©Gale Reference Complete

[bottom] Photograph of article's author