donisha_rastaDonisha Prendergast would probably not need an introduction if you met her. She bears such a striking resemblance to the late great legendary Bob Marley that you would probably guess that she is his granddaughter. Not only does she resemble him physically, but also in spirit which is why she is helping to spread his legacy of ‘One Love.’ One of the ways that she is doing this is through her signature documentary film ‘Rasta: A Soul’s Journey,’ which recently debuted in Montreal.

Directed by awarding-winning filmmaker Stuart Samuels and produced by Patricia Scarlett and Marilyn Gray, ‘Rasta: A Soul’s Journey’ is set to launch in the United States in February to coincide with Black History Month. The film is about Prendergast’s travels to different countries to get a feel for how other people and cultures viewed and celebrated the Rastafarian culture. The film also chronicles Prendergrast’s journey to find her purpose as a young Rasta woman. In the much-anticipated documentary Prendergast explores Rastafarian communities in the U.S., Israel, India, Jamaica, South Africa, Ethiopia, Canada and the United Kingdom.  Many of the countries that she visited are places where her famous grandfather once captivated audiences with his unprecedented phenomenal performances where his message of ‘One Love’ still reverberates.

An actress, dancer, model and poet, Prendergast also has to her credit major promotional ads, school and event presentations, and several video films including a role in her grandmother’s Rita Marley's 'Take me To the West Indies.'  A media darling in Jamaica, Prendergast has hosted the television talent show 'Star Search at Traxx,' the island's version of  'American Idol.' Despite all that she has done, she says that making 'Rasta: a Soul's Journey' was very important because when doing research, she found that the education system does not teach very much about Rasta. Because the movement was so inspirational to her grandfather, her quest when making the film included getting a better understanding of the roots of Rasta, her grandfather’s legacy and why his appeal is still so widespread. Marley's message and music are very much a part of the film.

AfricanDiasporaTourism.com spoke with Prendergrast where she shared a few of her insights about Rasta, being a Marley and the making of 'Rasta: A Soul's Journey':

AD Tourism - 1) What effect did being the granddaughter of Bob Marley have on you during your childhood and what were your career aspirations when growing up?

Prendergast - Being a Marley was not a big deal when I was growing up.  As a child you don’t get into those types of things, children don’t succumb to the ideas associated with stardom. I had a pretty much normal childhood, except that I realized how much I got to travel more than other children my age. My mom was a member of the band Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers, so I got to tour the world with them.  Traveling was a cool way to spend the summer and I got to go to places like Japan, England and Africa.  It was when I got older and became of age that I realized that there were other energies coming into play about who I was. I began to notice that people treated me differently.Donisha_pinnacle-mountain-e1299603169966

As far as what I wanted to be, I wasn’t sure, but I knew I wanted to do something with the psychology of people. I knew I had the natural ability to make people smile and they warmed up to me.  At the age of sixteen, I started doing some acting in school, and at 18 I got a video camera and that sort of changed things. I became interested in film and pictures. My mother was always supportive of whatever I wanted to be. She encouraged me to dream and believe that I could do or become anything I wanted within reason.

AD Tourism - 2) How has making Rasta: A Soul’s Journey effected you in general?

Prendergast - ‘Rasta: A Soul’s Journey’ helped me to learn more about Rasta and to dispel some of the myths about it. It was a spiritual as well as an exploratory journey for me. Doing the film has empowered me and bought me to a stronger sense of who I am. It was quite an experience meeting people around the world who embraced my grandfather and what he stood for.  My journey has helped to solidify who I am as a Rasta woman and to understand better the concept of one love. Meeting people all over the world was like connecting with bits and pieces of yourself in other people. I felt a sense of completeness; when hugging people, it was like meeting relatives or someone you’ve always known. Sort of like coming full circle, you know. Making the film has helped me to develop emotionally and spiritually.

AD Tourism – 3) What were some of the most memorable places and people you visited?

Prendergast – I loved all the places and felt a connection. As I said, I felt like we all were connected by love- one love that is. People were so receptive and embraced me and what I stood for in terms of my grandfather’s legacy and the movement. But it wasn't just about my name or being a Marley. I love people and they tend to have an openness with me.

One story that stands out in my mind is about a brother in Canada who was riding a bike with all kinds of trinkets on it and carrying a boom box with reggae and Marley music playing. I talked with him and he told me about a time when his son came home crying. His son was crying because he had to get all of his dreads cut off after he caught some kind of skin disease when a girl at school coughed in his hair. This brother said that he then went and got all his dreads cut off to show that it is what is on the inside of you that matters, not your hair. I was touched because I thought this summed up what being a Rasta was all about. It is about the love inside and not just wearing dreadlocks.

AD Tourism: 4) If you had a steady mate or if you were to marry, would your partner have to be Rastafarian?

Prendergast – No, he would not have to be Rastafarian. Of course not. Our relationship would not come from our religious views. We would have to operate from a space of love. But if he is Rasta, then we would have some of the same views and visions.  Many people don’t understand Rasta and therefore try to put it in compartments, because it makes them feel more comfortable.  But it does not bother me because they are not knowledgeable. The way some people view Rasta is not insulting to me. It would not make sense for me to get angry or upset over ignorance.

AD Tourism- 5) I’ve read that some Ethiopians who are Christian’s have had problems accepting the Rastafarians living there. What has been your experience in Ethiopia in terms of cultural differences?

Prendergast - I’ve been to Ethiopia two times and I did see some culture differences. But, I don’t like the term cultural differences. What I saw was two cultures.donisha_with_man I feel that the friction about the Rasta culture and the Ethiopian culture is at the governmental level, it is politics. I see the government trying to overturn things since the rule of Emperor Haile Selassie.  I feel that Jamaican rights in Ethiopia are slowly being taken away. But I have been only as a visitor and can’t honestly say because I did not witness very much.   I am going by what I hear people saying. 

I do think that the tension that many people especially young people are experiencing with their government in many countries is because of the alienation that they feel.  That’s why I can identify with some of the demands of Occupy Wall Street in America. There is a longing for something more that the people cannot recognize in their government. Sometimes it is politics and bureaucracy that is the cause of some of the tension. People all over are revolting because they are looking for more consciousness and truth kinds of things. That is the part that I identify with.

AD Tourism- 6) What are some of your future plans in terms of your career and promoting Rastafari?

Prendergast - I definitely have to continue to promote Rasta because that’s who I am. As a Rastafarian, I am to promote love which includes justice and truth consciousness. These are the things that we are supposed to do. Rastafarians are rebels, but we are good rebels. Reggae music is rebel music to promote social change. Rastafari is not just a spiritual movement, it involves  work. We can use spiritualty to go within for guidance about our work. We are supposed to help build our educational institutions, help the homeless and feed the poor.  There is lots of work that we have to help do.

Even though it was not difficult being a Marley as a child, it is in certain ways, it is as an adult. Yet in other ways it is at the same time not difficult because I know who I am. People expect things from me just because I am a Marley. But I don’t get into all of that celebrity stuff.  Being a celebrity should be about doing good things for others. But nowadays, it seems like a selfish thing, and it bothers me to see celebrities in the media making a mockery of art and life. There are ways they can help affect change and use their positions, but they choose to lavish money on themselves and spend frivolously. The sad part is that poor people around the world have to witness celebrity lifestyles while feeling that they will not likely possess or accomplish very much themselves. This is why it is not necessary for me to identify with celebrity. Right now I try to identify with the human side of life and I just want to be the best person that I can be. I would probably like to continue something in singing or film, but right now I just try to live in the present moment because tomorrow is promised to no one. I concentrate more on what I am doing now.

Right now Prendergast continuously speak at different young people’s organizations in different countries and events honoring her still- famous grandfather. She also works with her grandmother at the Rita Marley Foundation where one of the missions is to help alleviate poverty in Africa. She says that her grandmother is very proud of her role in ‘Rasta: A Soul’s Journey’ and has always been very supportive of her throught the years. “I am my grandmother’s protégé. I’ve traveled with her and she’s shown me a lot.  She has worked very hard over the years and now it’s time for her to slow down. I now believe that I am ready to step up and continue some of the work she has done,” says Prendergast.

Photo credit: (center) Sabriya Simon