After a few wrong turns a local couple walking on the road offered to jump in the car and navigate in exchange for a taxi fare to where they were heading. Five minutes and 20 Rand later we arrived at Judah Square - the largest Rastafarian community in South Africa located just outside of the city of Knysna in the Khayalethu South Township and home to about 80 Niyabinghi Rastafarians.
|Entrance mural to the House of Judah|
Brother Leo - sporting some heavily matted dreads - was the first member of the House of Judah to greet us when we arrived telling us that we were lucky to come at the time we did because it was a special night for the community. The House of Judah has a binghi or holy day on the first Saturday of the month and people were just starting to gather around a pile of wood outside the of the temple. Leo brought us over and introduced us to 10 men as another group from the community joined us. The introductions were mainly fist pumping followed by "irie, one love or I and I."
|Brother Leo getting down with his 8 inch|
As it began to get dark the group outside of the temple continued to get larger as four men played the drums and the group sang songs. The two friends I was travelling with weren't interested in sticking around for the night so we made plans to meet back at Judah Square the following morning and they left.
I met Sister Keri who ran "Sista Keri's B&B" in a separate room about three feet from her house with two bunk beds, a toilet and a sink. She offered to cook a vegetable dinner for me if I was hungry, but I wanted to get back to the binghi so headed back to the temple.
|Dancing around the fire|
By then it was dark and the pile of wood that was in the center of the ring of people was a healthy fire. The rasta's were singing songs about the fire and dancing and after a while they began to move in closer and circle clockwise around the fire. More people from the community came into the circle as they all walked around the fire and then proceeded into the church. I was standing outside the circle shooting video and taking photographs. One of the rastas came over to me and told me that I first needed to walk around the fire seven times and throw into the fire any negative feelings I had and then I could go into the temple.
|House of Judah Niyabinghi Temple|
Inside chants to Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie were interspersed with singing, dancing, smoking, beating the drums, sermons extolling the virtues of Rastafarianism, and calls by the priest for the community to act in unity on current political matters. Another member of the rasta community read from a teaching of Haile Selassie on the importance of the functions of a legislature and the need for the community to financially support the legislature and made an effort to relate the reading to the need for his fellow rastas to put money into a box he was holding.
As midnight approached a few rastas trickled in and a few others left the temple, but for the most part it was still a full house. After more than six hours of binghi and no end in sight I headed off to Sister Keri's place to get some sleep while the grounation continued well into the morning.