What Are The Rasta Colors?
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You see them everywhere but you don't really know how to separate them? Would you like to know in an official way what they really mean? You want to know what the real Rasta colors are?
You're right on time! I'm Caroline, a big fan of roots and reggae music in general, I'm also a proud supporter of Rastafarianism. Having the chance to travel regularly and to have African roots, I am sure I can bring answers to all your questions and help you to understand even better the Rastafarian ideology.
We find mainly 4 colors in the Rastafarianism. Inspired by the history of Pan-Africanism, the Rastafarian colors and their meanings are the following:
- Green: The beauty of the biodiversity (plant and animal) found in the Promised Land of Ethiopia.
- Gold (Yellow): The richness of the soil of Africa, Mother Earth.
- Red: The blood shed by black martyrs during their struggles for freedom, equal rights and justice.
- Black : Skin color of the African people but also God.
Throughout this article, you will learn:
- The origins of the Pan-African colors
- The meaning of these different colors
- Their link with the Rasta movement
The relationship between these historical colors and the movement you like so much will no longer be a secret to you. You will be able to explain the meaning of the Rasta colors correctly.
Let's go man!
1- Pan-African colors
Today everyone knows the Rastafarian flag and its variations. From the simplest one with three stripes (green, yellow and red) to the authentic one with the Lion of Judah in the center of the representation, passing by all the more or less original versions, the Rastafarian flag has gone around the world and clearly displays the philosophy of life of its owner. If you want to show that you belong to the Rastafarians or at least that you are a follower of this ideology, you just have to display one or more Rastafarian flags.
But where does this symbol come from and what does it mean? In this first part, you will be able to discover what are the colors present on the Rasta flag but we will especially look at their origins as well as their meanings.
a) What is Pan-Africanism?
You may be hearing about Pan-Africanism for the first time. This term is used to represent the political movement that advocates the solidarity and cohesion of the states of the African continent in order to get rid of the colonialist past and make Africa fully autonomous and independent.
b) What are the colors of Pan-Africanism?
If you have ever looked at the flags of the world, you have certainly noticed that many African countries (especially those in West Africa) have three common colors. For example, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Congo or Mali display yellow, green and red in various orders. These flags have their origin in a historical episode: the victory of Ethiopia over Italy in 1896 (first Italian-Ethiopian war). Following this victory, the emperor - Menelik I - adopted three colors to create the national flag. A total of 12 African countries have these colors to date, not including the Rastafari movement.
If these colors have seduced many countries, it is primarily because they have a meaning that speaks to all inhabitants - and expatriates - of Africa. They are called the Pan-African colors. Green, Yellow and Red.
c) Why the colors green-yellow-red?
- Green: At the top, we find this color which in Europe is close to nature and hope. This symbolism remains identical on African soil. Showing green is to show the natural wealth of the fertile land with its exceptional forests. It is also the hope that guides the African people through the difficult episodes they have experienced. Symbolically, green is also associated with health, fitness and stability. This hue is also very present to represent the realm of the gods on earth, especially for the Rastas.
- Red: A color that has ambivalent meanings. It is the color of strength, courage and honor but also of danger and violence. It represents blood, which in the present configuration refers to the blood shed by Africans during wars and the period of slavery. It is a dynamic color that recalls fire and highlights power and pride. It is the blood that is the image of life.
- Gold (Yellow): Central color of the Ethiopian and Rasta flag. Yellow is a light color that is associated with joy of life, happiness, sunshine. It is generally representative of brotherhood and friendship between men. Even if these ideas can be adapted to African symbolism, the color has another meaning in African lands: gold. This wealth which was very present on the soil of the continent (before the Europeans appropriated it at the price of many sufferings) symbolizes the wealth of the country and a part (rather negative) of its history. It is also the sun that shines on the earth, that brings warmth. It is the spiritual as well as material wealth.
These three colors were not associated by chance and because they go well together! The idea is to show the suffering that Africa has undergone, but also its hope and its wealth.
2- Rasta colors
It has already been noted that this chromatic trio can be found on many African flags. However, the colors officially declared as colors of the peoples of Africa are green, black and red (UNIA 1920). Let's see now the history that links the Rastafari movement with this famous tricolor glow.
a) Lhe Ethiopian flag
As we have just seen, the Rasta movement does not follow the instructions of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League to the letter. And there is a reason for this: Rastas are not close to the whole of Africa but to one country in particular: Ethiopia.
The birth of the Ethiopian flag is due to Emperor Menelik I, as we have already mentioned. To celebrate his victory over the Italian colonists, he put in place a flag based on the one used by the previous Solomonide dynasty, which already had these three colors (red on top, yellow and green). The colors were reversed in the 19th century to obtain the order we know today. For each power, a different symbol is placed in the center (on the yellow background). Among these symbols, the most famous is the Lion of Judah which appeared on the Ethiopian flag in 1897 before disappearing in 1974. It remains nevertheless a strong symbol in the iconography of the Rasta movement.
If you have ever been interested in Rastafarianism, you will have noticed that one person has really left his mark on the movement. Without going into detail, it is Emperor Haile Selassie, whose arrival was prophesied by Marcus Garvey, one of the people behind the movement.
It is therefore not surprising that the Rastas favored the influence of Ethiopia and borrowed this flag from the Ethiopian people, to whom it is attached and identified.
b) A Rastafarian Nation
The Emperor Negus faced a second war with Italy in 1935. The Ethiopian people underwent heavy repression against the dictator Mussolini. The Jamaican Rastas brought these exactions to light and informed the world. To thank these allies, Haile Selassie granted a territory called Shashamane, located south of the capital, to the Rastas. These lands will welcome many Rastas from Jamaica, including the group of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, who will in turn display the three colors of the Rasta flag, this time associated with a star (recalling the Star of David).
We can therefore see that these colors are the image of the "Rasta people" but also the image of the Ethiopian people and to generalize the image of African peoples
c) The colors of the Rasta religion
This affiliation is also present in the religious field. To better understand the movement, one must know the Rasta religion.
The Rastafarians advocate, indeed, a unique god.
It is therefore not surprising that these colors are also present in various religious symbols of the movement. The Rasta proudly wears yellow, green and red on his cap, his t-shirt, or his bracelets. The meanings and symbolism of the colors remain the same, namely the blood shed and courage for the red, the richness of the original land for the yellow and the beauty of the Mother Earth for the green.
We can add a fourth color, very present on the Rasta symbols: black. It can be present in different representations: the Lion of Judah, the symbol of peace or the hemp leaf. For Rasta people, black has a particular importance. It represents the color of their people but also God (Jah). For them, indeed, God is black. It is therefore not surprising to see this color often associated with the three symbolic colors of the movement.
3- Guardian of the Rasta temple
You have understood that these colors are much more than an aesthetic choice but proudly represent the history of Africa and the image of a united and inseparable continent.
You now know exactly what Rasta colors are and what they mean! You are able to explain their origins in the African continent and what these pan-African bands represent for the Rastafarian community.
You should be proud to wear these wonderful colors and spread the positive vibes of them wherever you go. We advise you to choose one of our Rasta T-Shirts from our collection, suitable for all tastes.
Discover them now by clicking on the image below: