Heirs and Pioneers, Rastafari Return to Ethiopia
Giulia Bonacci Translated by Antoinette Tidjani Alou


Foreword Reviews' 2015 INDIEFAB Book of the Year Award Winner Gold, History (Adult Nonfiction)

Pages and Dimensions: 
520pp 7 x 10



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US$42 (s)


In 1977, Bob Marley composed Exodus, a reggae masterpiece that evokes the return of Rastafari to Africa. Over the past fifty years, Rastafari have made the journey to Ethiopia, settling in the country as “repatriates”. This little-known history is told in Exodus! Heirs and Pioneers, Rastafari Return to Ethiopia. Giulia Bonacci recounts, with sharpness and rigour, this amazing journey of Rastafari who left the Caribbean, the United States and the United Kingdom. Exiting from the Babylon of the West and entering the Zion that is Ethiopia, the exodus has a pan-African dimension that is significant to the present day. Despite facing complex challenges in their relations with the Ethiopian state and its people, mystical and determined Rastafari keep arriving to Shashemene, their Promised Land. 

Revealing personal trajectories, Giulia Bonacci shows that Rastafari were not the first black settlers in Ethiopia. She tracks the history of return over the decades, demonstrating that the utopian idea of return is also a reality. Exodus! is based on in-depth archival and print research, as well as on a wide range of oral histories collected in Ethiopia, Jamaica, Ghana and the United States. Originally published in French in 2010 by Editions L’Harmattan, this translation is the first time Bonacci’s valuable work has been made widely available to an English-speaking audience. 

“A wonderfully comprehensive almost epic study, lavishly illustrated. . . . But most importantly it is also a work based on fifty fascinating interviews . . . of some of those who ‘returned’ from the diaspora to an African homeland that was almost unknown to them.”

 —Professor Hakim Adi, Professor of the History of Africa and the African Diaspora, University of Chichester 

“This is unquestionably the most important book on Rastafari to appear in over a decade. . . . Bonacci has produced a richly layered text that fills a major gap in the literature on Rastafari and history of African repatriation.” 

—Jake Homiak, Director, National Anthropological Archives, Department of Anthropology, Smithsonian Institution 

GIULIA BONACCI is a researcher at the Institute of Research for Development, France.

ANTOINETTE TIDJANI ALOU is Professor of French and Comparative Literature, Université Abdou Moumouni, Niamey, Niger.

ELIKIA M’BOKOLO is Research Director, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, France, and Professor of History at the Université de Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo.