The wife of reggae legend Bob Marley said Wednesday she plans to exhume his remains in Jamaica and rebury them in his “spiritual resting place” — Ethiopia.
No date has been set for the reburial, but it will be after February when monthlong celebrations of the 60th anniversary of Marley’s birth are planned in Ethiopia. Both the Ethiopian church and government officials support the project, Rita Marley told The Associated Press.
“We are working on bringing his remains to Ethiopia,” said Rita Marley, a former backup singer for her husband’s band, The Wailers. “It is part of Bob’s own mission.”
Born in 1945 in rural St. Ann parish in Jamaica, Bob Marley rose from the gritty shantytowns of Kingston to global stardom with hits such as “No Woman, No Cry” and “I Shot the Sheriff.” His lyrics promoting “one love” and social revolution made him an icon in developing countries worldwide. Bob Marley died of cancer in Miami in 1981 at age 36.
Rita Marley said her husband would be reburied in Shashemene, 155 miles south of Addis Ababa where several hundred Rastafarians have lived since they were given land by Ethiopia’s last emperor, Haile Selassie.
Hundreds of thousands of Jamaicans embraced Haile as their living god and head of the Rastafarian religious movement.
Bob Marley was a devout Rastafarian, a faith whose followers preach a oneness with nature, grow their hair uncombed into dreadlocks and smoke marijuana as a sacrament. About 700,000 people practice it worldwide.
“Bob’s whole life is about Africa. It is not about Jamaica,” said Rita Marley, a Cuban-born singer who married the reggae star in 1966.
“How can you give up a continent for an island? He has a right for his remains to be where he would love them to be. This was his mission.
“Ethiopia is his spiritual resting place. With the 60th anniversary this year, the impact is there and the time is right.”
Together with the African Union and the U.N. children’s agency, Rita Marley has organized celebrations in Ethiopia, including a concert on Bob Marley’s birthday, Feb. 6, to be held in Addis Ababa.
The monthlong celebration, dubbed “Africa Unite” after one of Bob Marley’s songs, aims to raise funds to help poor families in Ethiopia.
African and reggae artists — including the Marley Family, Senegal’s Baaba Maal and Youssou N’Dour, and Benin’s Angelique Kidjo — will perform as part of the $1 million program. The event is expected to be broadcast in Africa and beyond.