A group of eight Rastafarians, under the leadership of Baba Lord, have dared the Newcastle freezing weather to start a tiny village called Bikoland. They are driven by the desire to have peace and freedom. And to them, their village will breathe life to the drug ravaged community of Osizweni township in Newcastle.
Bikoland, named after the Black Consciousness Movement leader who was murdered by the apartheid police in 1977, Steve Biko is located about 15 km outside Osizweni, Newcastle’s second biggest township. The residents of the village made a conscious decision to relocate to this village which was just an open veld so they could practice Rastafarianism, which according to them is the most practical religion.
Where the boundary of the village begins, you are welcome by a flag which marks the boundary of a holy land you are about to enter. “Haile Selassie, Jah, Rastafari,” we were led in this way of greeting or showing appreciation as we were all holding hands with the residents of the village.
It was Saturday afternoon and the whole community was gathered in a shack for the afternoon church service. Seeing us approaching the place of worship, Sister Molebogeng rushed towards us. We only learnt later that she wanted to prevent us from entering the church without a doek for my wife and a jacket for me. She then lent my wife a doek.
Baba Lord stopped what he was doing and welcomed us to their holy land. And again we joined hands and greeted each other in the way Sister Molebogeng had showed us a few minutes earlier.
“Our belief, said Baba Lord is, “let the hungry be fed, the naked be clothed, the sick be nourished, the infants be cared for and the aged be protected.”
“For us we praise the living God,” Ras Culture added.
The residents want peaceful co-existence not only among Bikoland residents, but with the non-Rastafarians in areas surrounding “the holly village”. To achieve this Rastafarians of Bikoland have committed to serving God who sent them on a mission to start this village.
Sister Molebogeng, the wife of Baba Lord and the only female resident of the village explained that they live by the principle of sharing. “No one goes to bed hungry in our village.”
Bikoland residents also protect and rehabilitate their environment. They grow their own vegetables and trees which are also shared with everyone Rastafarians or not. The people in other villages do not only get food from Bikoland, they also acquire skills which the Rastafarians are more than willing to share freely.
“I sometimes come to Bikoland to help because I know that what my brothers and sisters are doing here will benefit me as well, said one of the community members.
“Because we protect birds in this village almost every day we see new bird species gracing our shores,” said Baba Lord. The village boasts of more than 23 bird species.
“People undermine us and think we are just a bunch of ganja addicts,” Ras Siya said puffing the zoll he was sharing with everyone except Sister Molebogeng’s two little daughters.
As we continue our discussion Sister Molebogeng was breast feeding her little daughter whom she claimed was, healthy because of the dagga fumes she was exposed to from the day she was born.
The villagers insist that though life is in the village is tough, they will never commit crime by selling dagga to the members of the public.
For them Bikoland, like Sister Molebogeng is giving life to her baby by breastfeeding her, is here to breathe new life into the environment and the surrounding areas.