Donisha Prendergast: “Rastafarianism in it’s essence speaks about waking up of humanity all around the world”

Donisha is the oldest of Rita and Bob Marley’s grandchildren, a daughter of also world widely known reggae singer Sharon Marley and Peter Prendergast, internationally highly valued football judge. She turned her back to a celebrity career and redirect her focus to global activism, which also became an instrument for sharing her grandfather’s heritage. Almost three years ago descendant of THE voice of reggae, rastafarian movement and enslaved African people but sharpe person on her own, was travelling around the world, presenting the documentary of her Rasta’s journey, Rastafarianism but specially spreading the word about neocolonialism coming back with foreign (Western) corporations to the place on earth, where symbolism of resistance and healing once already had to take big burden and wound. She came to Slovenia as one of the speakers on the health and nature fair, with lectures about medical and industrial use of cannabis and it was funny to spend few hours with a person I would need ages to ask all the questions with that background in not descrete and intimate environment at all, not sharing even a puff but many other new perspectives came anyway.

Interviewing: Tjaša Kosar

Published on internet and in print on 9th of December, 2014 in Slovenian language in Ona magazine

Your whole family is not only known to the whole world as reggae icons, names of your parents and grandparents are also written in a very history of Jamaica. How did your childhood look like, how was your growing up?

I had very normal childhood, we all had to go to school, do home work and help in the household. The only speciality was, that all the children, my brothers and cousins, joined our parents on tours and witnessed reggae music influence on people all around the world, who were interpreting also my grandfather’s music in different languages and meanings. Because of it we were extremely lucky, we never felt ideology of race or nationalism on our skin. Our family is also very diverse, we have European, Asian and African roots, we had this awareness of being citizens of the world since we were born. On tours children joined others on stage with the last song on every concert, which made us feel an important part of performances also. If I look at the whole picture, it was a nice life, even though our way of life wasn’t accepted, because of our success we didn’t have many friends. Rastafarianism was popular all around the world, only in Jamaica it was persecuted. That was the reason why my mother didn’t let me knit my dreadlocks until I was grown up enough to understand what responsibility that brings in Jamaica.

The fact, that I am Bob Marley’s granddaughter I feel today as a huge responsibility. At the same time it is mentally and emotionally hard for me, when I hear his song at some club. It is wonderful to experience when all the people are dancing and singing to it, while on the other hand it makes me deeply sad. Reggae is not music for entertainment and it hurts me when it is used in commercial meanings. His songs are full of messages important for humanity, formed in music, while people are singing about positive vibrations, go home and forget all about it.

What kind of relationship have you built with your grandfather among all the stories, you never met him since you were born after he passed away?

The older I get the more I can see all his dimensions. I’m not seeing him as a global icon but rather as a human being, brother, friend, mentor, for which all the credits go to my grandmother, Rita Marley. She never called him my husband Bob but my brother Bob. People who are listening to his music don’t hear her in the background, nevertheless she is on almost every tape. The fact, that I am Bob Marley’s granddaughter I feel today as a huge responsibility. At the same time it is mentally and emotionally hard for me, when I hear his song at some club. It is wonderful to experience when all the people are dancing and singing to it, while on the other hand it makes me deeply sad. Reggae is not music for entertainment and it hurts me when it is used in commercial meanings. His songs are full of messages important for humanity, formed in music, while people are singing about positive vibrations, go home and forget all about it. This year I’m turning 30 years, I have only 6 more years until I turn his age when he passed from this world and I am questioning myself a lot how will I feel at that age and what will I do in this time.

Also journalists are probably always asking you only about your grandfather but what is the role of Rita Marley in your life?



She definitely tought me how to understand my identity, how to be connected with it. I never experienced she would question herself about it. She is non-traditional woman, out of the box. She lives her life her own way, with which she disappointed a lot of people but to me it is giving me a lot of courage to also search myself and built life as I want to. She gave me an understanding of everyone having his own journey in his own time so there is no need for feeling pressured. I also respect how she never forced Rastafarianism or any other religious views on us. She was giving us time and space while at the same time she made observing possible. She often took us from the city to the village so we would understood where we are coming from. She was teaching and raising us roots. If I will ever be half of a woman she is, I will achieve a lot.

Your grandfather was the reason to start exploring Rastafarianism? Is you also being part of the community his influence?

For sure he was the reason I got familiar with it but for me it really started 6 years ago when I was part of documentary film Rasta’s journey. Because of it I travelled the whole world also as a grown up, with my own questions and possibility to see everything from a wider perspective, more objective side. Growing up as Bob Marley’s granddaughter was like growing up in a bubble, our family was very protective to the children since we know how chased our grandfather was. We are aware what Rastafarianism and reggae music truly represent. But I could understand all that once I started exploring it by myself, away from the family. It is way more than just a way of expression, dreadlocks, marijuana, reggae. It’s about philosophy towards humanity and reasons, why it was born and how it was born. On this journey I’m discovering what seeds have my grandfather left behind him. He managed to spread the idea to humanity of one love, how no one is specially chosen, we are all the chosen ones. But for myself I don’t want this big pressure on my shoulders as he had, that’s why I am travelling around the world, encouraging people to step on this road together. Activism is not Bob Marley’s or Donisha’s project, it should become a mission of the whole humanity.

Rastafarianism is way more than just a way of expression, dreadlocks, marijuana, reggae. It’s about philosophy towards humanity and reasons, why it was born and how it was born. On this journey I’m discovering what seeds have my grandfather left behind him. He managed to spread the idea to humanity of one love, how no one is specially chosen, we are all the chosen ones. But for myself I don’t want this big pressure on my shoulders as he had, that’s why I am travelling around the world, encouraging people to step on this road together. Activism is not Bob Marley’s or Donisha’s project, it should become a mission of the whole humanity.

Were you always dreaming about that, wanting to be in activism?

When I was 18 I was already Jamaican celebrity, I was all over the place, in commercials and on billboards all over Carribeans, I was a host of a talent show or acting. You can imagine me how I bought my first car in screaming red color, equipped with expensive sound system, driving around the streets all almighty, when I had an extreme car accident and it was a miracle I came out without a scratch or droplet of blood. According to all physical laws I shouldn’t come alive out of this completely smashed car. I didn’t wake up until I was lying in a hospital and while I was unconscious, I dreamt my grand grandfather, father of my grandmother, with whom we were deeply connected and he passed from this world 4 years before the accident on the same date. In those dreams he told me he can see I am very popular in the community but I shouldn’t get fooled and step away from my path since I have a lot of work to do. He asked me about my younger brother and told me I should be there for him, focused, mindful. Next thing I woke up and for me life wasn’t the same again. The accident changed it’s way, I had two possibilities infront of me. I could continue cashing out celebrity status or I could go on a journey of my soul. In search for something bigger, as my grand grandfather told me in dreams. I got aware about my life ending one day and how I should leave something bigger than that behind me.

The strongest stereotypes about us are that we are lazy, while the essence of our existence is smoking weed and afrocentrism. In reality it is about something much bigger. Rastafarian movement was born from a wish of serenity, independency, freedom, self-sufficiency, sustainability, trusting and relying on yourself. In the world which was not allowing that, we were brave enough to take this into our hands, this is why we were interpreted the way we still are. We live in a system which dictates us what to do, who we are, what we should be. One of the hot topics in the world of this time, medical use of marihuana, or healthy ecological food, self-producing it also, for example, is something Rastafarianism is consistently messaging since it’s beginnings.

One other reason why you are travelling all over the world is to put a different light on Rastafarianism movement and explain it differently than the world generally understands it. There are many misconceptions about this community, which one hurt you the most?

The strongest stereotypes about us are that we are lazy, while the essence of our existence is smoking weed and afrocentrism. In reality it is about something much bigger. Rastafarian movement was born from a wish of serenity, independency, freedom, self-sufficiency, sustainability, trusting and relying on yourself. In the world which was not allowing that, we were brave enough to take this into our hands, this is why we were interpreted the way we still are. We live in a system which dictates us what to do, who we are, what we should be. One of the hot topics in the world of this time, medical use of marihuana, or healthy ecological food, self-producing it also, for example, is something Rastafarianism is consistently messaging since it’s beginnings. Because we were chased from the world, we do not easily open and share those messages any more, this is why my grandfather is not here anymore. Rastafarianism in it’s essence speaks about waking up of humanity all around the world, to free ourselves from all colonial systems which are chaining us further on in deeper shadow, how we need to empower, work with and for each other. To stop pointing fingers on each other and start collective evolution, which is calling us to get there together with combining all our knowledge.

So you are accepting Rastafarianism more as political than religious movement? 


Personally I don’t believe in any religion, although I accept the divinity of Haile Selassie. We can’t go around the fact the prophecy of Marcus Grey, that there will be a black king in colonised Africa, came true. I will always speak up about that from a historical point of view. That was a time black people could relate with a prophet, messiah, the Bible, for the first time. It was a time African people saw a light at the end of the tunnel for the first time. Because of religious connection of these events the historical and political importance were completely ignored and are not part of today’s general knowledge. Haile Selassie, his student was also Nelson Mandela before he returned to South and got jailed for almost 30 years, was teaching about freedom of all, how we can achieve it only by knowledge, which keeps us independent and self-reliable. If there was not Rasta movement, the world wouldn’t know anything about this part of the history.

Another big message of your global activism is also to prevent your country to build luxurious villas on Pinnacle area, where in 1940 first Rastafarian community was built or Independent Rastafarian county, which was violently destroyed in the 60’s. We are talking about the first community, where generations of once enslaved Africans from whole Jamaica found shelter, where they finally got freedom and peace. This is actually horrifying symbolical message for the whole world.

Pinnacle area was a place, where people in all the meanings destroyed by enslaved work on plantations, found shelter for healing. They healed themselves with natural herbs, healthy food, with knowledge they found there. The community helped them to heal their souls, since enslaved people got broken apart with their families, they took their children. Pinnacle was the first place where people united and rehabilitated as human beings, that’s why the community became so powerful that it became a threat for the system. True, it is not so much about the land but about the story that is essential part of our existence wanted to be erased, while we are still here, existing. It is so hypocritical from the government that it promotes Rastafarianism as big brand of Jamaica, while they want to destroy the heart, where this movement started.

Before starting a family I need to see a better world first. This is where you come in place, the one’s who will read this story, to reflect and rethink same questions and take what you need from it. We are all broken people on our journeys, we need to learn how to see wide perspective, to understand what is going on and why is it going on like that. We all together on this earth are one big story. One!

Rastas have been also prosecuted for smoking cannabis, while your grandfather saw an opportunity for rehabilitating the nations all over the world in this plant. How do you understand his idea?

To be Rasta or to be part of Rastafarian movement you don’t need to smoke marijuana. It is ceremonial ritual, part of cultural expression. In the old days only Elders were allowed to do it. It is not just about smoking, inhalating the herbs that open up consciousness, we can built homes with this plant, heal destroyed soil, make sustainable clothes, heal diseases. My grandfather’s smoking ganja was wrongly interpreted because of commercialization of reggae. Just like they were wrongly interpreting his smoking on the stage. With it he was trying to symbolically message to the world that cannabis is a plant which will heal the nations, economy and the planet. While we are still discussing decriminalization of cannabis for personal, medical or scientific purposes in our country, which is already great news, there is neocolonisation happening in Jamaica. Areas where local farmers were producing world widely acknowledged cannabis products for decades, our government is now massively taking from traditional farmers in saying it belongs to the crown, which means to British and selling it. Producing cannabis products was alternative for decades for locals according to the life conditions on the island, for many families it made possible for children to go to school, to build their own homes. Today the same farmers are working for western corporations that bought the land, for minimal wages.

How does a life look like in Jamaica at this time?

Reggae and Marley made us a celebrity island, we are accepting ourselves the way the world sees us. We are dancing and singing while we are undereducated, underpaid, living in poverty, corruption and criminal. I am Bob Marley’s granddaughter and I sometimes end up with an empty fridge. But while I’m in Jamaica and having my family I have much more than average Rasta woman. Typical life of a Rasta woman is one big fight in solitude. Out of tradition which shouldn’t be relevant any more, me as a Rasta woman, wearing pants, on the top even tight, am not accepted in the community. Also this community desperately needs evolution.

How do you imagine your life out of activism and one love ambassador’s work?


I want to be a mother for sure, paint walls of my own home, write children’s books, have a farm, share time and space with free people. This is also another reason I devoted myself to activism. Before starting a family I need to see a better world first. This is where you come in place, the one’s who will read this story, to reflect and rethink same questions and take what you need from it. We are all broken people on our journeys, we need to learn how to see wide perspective, to understand what is going on and why is it going on like that. We all together on this earth are one big story. One!