Brother Zebulon and the Rastas of Judah Square

Several weeks ago, while visiting Knysna for the Knysna Oyster Festival, a tweet from a fellow travel writer led me to Knysna Township and a tour of the Rastafarian community of Judah Square.

I’ve been on many tours all over South Africa but I’ve never taken a tour as interesting — or as hilarious, at least to me — as this one. I’m actually not sure how to describe it and I’ve concluded that the less I say, the better.

To make a long story short, I visited Judah Square as part of a larger tour of Knysna Township with Emzini Tours. I can’t recommend Emzini highly enough. Owners/guides Ella Mahlulo and Penny Mainwaring not only run fascinating tours in a part of Knysna that most tourists (and probably most affluent locals) never see, but are also doing great things in their community.

Knysna township

Knysna Township, which is in the hills above the Knysna waterfront.

Judah Square is a settlement of Rastafarians on the edge of Knysna Township, founded in 1993. Take a look at the Judah Square website — it’s well designed, interesting, and entertaining. Among other things the website includes a comprehensive Rastafari dictionary, which I enjoyed reading. (Incidentally, Rastas have an inordinate number of different terms for female genetalia.)

There are two dozen Rastafarian families living in Judah Square, with their own school and church. Emzini tours dropped us off at the entrance to Judah Square, where we were met by Brother Zebulon.

Zeb and township

Brother Zebulon, official guide at Judah Square and also a registered South African Tour Guide, with Knysna Township in the background.

I toured Judah Square for about 30 minutes, along with my friend Lucy and her adorable baby Kai. I know this is a cop-out but I have to admit, yet again, that I didn’t absorb enough of what was said during the tour because I was too busy taking photos. And laughing.

I also realize in hindsight that I probably missed out on a lot of what Brother Zeb said because I wasn’t yet familiar with the Rastafari dictionary.

Zebulon Psalm of the Day

Portrait of Brother Zebulon, or Brother Zeb, whose real name is Dawie Afrikaaner. (That’s the name printed on his tour guide badge.) Brother Zeb has a very animated, melodious way of speaking. In fact I was so fascinated by the way Brother Zeb spoke that I absorbed very little of what he was actually saying.

Lucy Kai and Zeb

Baby Kai was just as fascinated, if not more so, by Brother Zeb as Lucy and I were. Kai was so fascinated, in fact, that he laughed hysterically and joyously flailed his limbs about for the entire length of the tour. I in turn found this hysterical and joyous, as did Lucy and Brother Zeb. On a related note, I asked Brother Zeb how many children he has and he evaded my question.

Did I mention that Brother Zeb is extremely photogenic?

Zeb talking1 Zeb talking2 Zeb talking3

So basically I have many great portraits of Brother Zeb but very little to recount on the actual tour. I also didn’t learn very much about Rastafarianism, although I would like to. I suppose I’ll have to take the tour again the next time I’m in Knysna.

I did write down one Brother Zeb quote that I thought was very profound:

“The color of one’s skin is no different from the color of one’s eyes.”

Zeb with King and Queen

Brother Zeb with a portrait of Haile Selasie and Menen Asfaw, the Emperor and Empress of Ethiopia. 

Zeb Lucy Kai

One more shot of Brother Zeb and his new friends. Note the dreds, which hang past his knees. I think Zeb said he’s been growing his hair since 1994.

On our way out we stopped in a small shop, where I purchased some cheap Rasta bracelets. We met Brother Jabu in the shop.

Jabu

Brother Jabu next to a large pile of weed, or herb, as the Rastas call it. As I’m sure you all know, Rastafarians smoke marijuana as part of their religion. Brother Jabu is making the “One Love” symbol with his hands.

Someone asked me later if the marijuana next to Brother Jabu was for sale, but I didn’t even think to ask. Lucy did ask Brother Zeb about how the House of Judah gets around the problem of marijuana being illegal in South Africa, but I’m not sure she got a straight answer. Come to think of it, Brother Zeb has a great talent for fielding questions while not exactly answering them.

I really loved my trip to Knysna but in my opinion the town itself is a bit too shiny and clean — almost sterile. By the end of the week I found myself feeling starved for culture. So the Knysna Township tour was a great change of pace for me. I recommend it to any visitor interested in doing something offbeat. Just go with an open mind.

Jabu Instagram

Brother Jabu, a very happy man.

Please note that this post is no way an endorsement for smoking (or not smoking) marijuana.

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11 Comments

  • Reply UnderAnAfricanSun September 1, 2014 at 6:23 pm

    I always enjoy the portraits you do but these are really great !

  • Reply K for Kate (@Kate_Els) September 1, 2014 at 9:38 pm

    Awesome photos as usual! TEACH ME YOUR WAYS!

    • Reply 2summers September 4, 2014 at 4:03 pm

      Haha. Practice makes perfect. Jeez, I sound like my grandmother.

  • Reply hilthethrill September 3, 2014 at 4:32 pm

    1 love to the Rastafari! Playing with words is a very big Rasta tradition, making poetry and new words up as they go.

    • Reply 2summers September 4, 2014 at 4:03 pm

      Yes, I noticed! I definitely need to go back there to absorb some more of the language.

  • Reply rebirthoflisa September 24, 2014 at 10:16 pm

    I enjoyed the pictures and am very grateful for the Rasta Dictionary. I feel like I would like Brother Zeb right away. However, I was hoping there would be more information about the tour to see if it would be worth going when I travel there. I really have no idea what the tour entailed except having laughs with with Zeb and Kai. Thanks for sharing.

    • Reply 2summers September 26, 2014 at 9:14 am

      Thanks. I wish I could have provided more information too, but what I described is pretty much what I got out of it. Sorry. Was laughing too hard to ask lots of questions 🙂

      • Reply rebirthoflisa September 27, 2014 at 4:26 am

        I am happy you had so much fun on your adventure. I hope to go there very soon.

  • Reply Sharon Travellers January 3, 2017 at 2:22 pm

    As some one who lives in Knysna and has the privilege of calling Penny and Ella friends and also having met Brother Zebulon and other of our Rastfarians, lovely write up 🙂

    • Reply 2summers January 3, 2017 at 5:26 pm

      Thanks so much, Sharon! I’m glad you enjoyed it. This is one of my favorite posts.

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