23 February 2012 by Chris Marais

Rasta by the sea

There’s something deeply creative and welcoming about hanging with the Rastas at Judah Square.

There’s a township called Khayalethu on the outskirts of Knysna on the Garden Route, and deep in that huge settlement is a place called Judah Square.

I like this place, because there is something deeply creative and welcoming about its mainly Rastafarian community. Sometimes, when I need a little break from the world and all its ‘stuff’, I make a detour down to Judah Square and fill up on something spiritual instead.

The first time I ventured in, I came upon a huge wall with the painted outlines of dreadlocked Rastas in great profusion. A few minutes later, I met Maxie Melville, 1 of the local leaders.

From somewhere up on the terraces I heard a live band playing some Bob Marley from way back.

Maxie is what his mates call an ‘alien buster’, because he’s involved with the local Working For Water project – and alien riverside growth removal is his major task.

I remember a bunch of ragamuffins (should that be ‘rastamuffins’?) flocking around Maxie as he walked towards me. From somewhere up on the terraces I heard a live band playing some Bob Marley from way back.

I was invited into Maxie’s home, which was a small wooden shack adorned with the colours of Rasta. Someone had also been baking something glorious, because the aromas of fresh muffin (again, should that be ‘rastamuffin’?) came wafting through from the kitchen.

Maxie told me how, in the ‘old days’, the local Rastafarian community of about 2 000 souls had been dotted all about Khayalethu and that this kind of fully integrated life was difficult. The peaceful Rastas do not indulge in alcohol at all and, except for the Judah Square band bashing away in the background, they like the quiet life.

‘We all signed a petition begging the authorities for a special place just for us,’ said Maxie. ‘And they eventually agreed. Welcome to Judah Square, brother…’

Category: Culture & History

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