By Megan Verlee
Rastafarian artist Bandi Payne leads visitors through the jungle-like garden that surrounds his house in Shashamane, pointing out the many trees he’s planted in his two decades here.
“That’s guava, my guava tree. Tangerine, banana trees and… that is cassava,” Payne said pointing to the shrubby plant.
Payne was born on the Caribbean island of Saint Vincent, but long wanted to make Ethiopia his home.
Rastafarians – whose religion follows an afro-centric reading of the bible – believe that Ethiopia’s last emperor, who died in 1975, was the Messiah, fulfilling the Biblical prophecy that kings would come out of Africa.
That belief that Africa is the Promised Land makes moving here a life goal for many Rastafarians.
“Rich is not the right word for it – it’s more than rich, it’s sweeter than honey, more valuable than pearls the culture, very strong,” Payne said.