Firstman is a longtime advocate for the sustainable development of the cultural industry through the preservation, protection and promotion of cultural events; community development projects; traditional knowledge, and indigenous expression. He is one of the original founders of Rastafari Indigenous Village (RIV); a father, drummer, chanter, singer, songwriter, and orater.
Firstman has had a long career as a community organizer and cannabis freedom activist; serving as a charter member of the Jamaican Ganja Task Force; as the Chair of the first Ganja Advisory Committee to the Government of Jamaica; and as a Co Founder of the Rastafari and Grass Roots Growers Association (RAGGA).
Firstman has been certified by the United Nations as an expert in the 2003 Intangible Cultural Heritage Convention and the 2005 Cultural Diversity Convention; and by the State of Oregon as a Trainer for indigenous practices surrounding visionary plants (pending). In 2016, Firstman and the Rastafari Indigenous Village were introduced to ayahuasca, psilocybin mushrooms and other sacred plants by MesoAmerican and South American medicine people.
Immediately thereafter, RIV became the first traditional Rastafari community to incorporate these sacred plants into their own spiritual practice, expressing traditional beliefs with new insights; and creating a new, unique and very powerful Rastadelic ™ expression of psychedelic culture and spirituality. For the first five years, this practice was at shared exclusively within the Rastafari community. In 2021, the RIV team began offering this new ceremonial experience to guests visiting Jamaica.
Auntie Arlene is a grandmother, historian, curator, and cultural ambassador. She is also an accomplished administrator and deeply experienced tourism professional; who helped develop the initial vision for Rastafari Indigenous Village— to create financial sustainability and cultural preservation
for the intergenerational Rastafari community.
Arlene is a passionate guardian of both the Village and of wider Rastafari and Jamaican art, culture, and traditions; faithfully and carefully supporting an extensive network of the island’s most talented traditional artisans. She is an original founder of the Village, a wise woman, and the person we most look to for direction— and when necessary correction.
Arlene was raised and started her career in London, UK. She received her undergraduate degree in Education and Sociology from the University of London, and her Masters in Arts and Heritage Management from the University of North London. From the earliest days, she focused on empowering young people, spending the first five years of her career as a community organizer and youth center manager.
Arlene then returned to Jamaica, and began her rapid rise through the ranks of the tourism industry. Building from an initial position as an Air Jamaica customer services agent; Arlene moved on to positions with the Jamaican Tourist Board, the Jamaica Tourism Action Plan, and the Tourism Product Development Company— where she accepted roles as Western Regional Standards Manager, and Director of Craft Development. Arlene’s tourism career has also included time working with the Rose Hall group, and the Jamaica Promotions and Investment Company. Arlene’s vast and varied experience, along with her solid judgment, has been invaluable to the preservation and growth of the Village.
King Tebah, aka Robert Roach, is one of the founding members of the Rastafari Indigenous Village. He is a father; a Nyabinghi drummer; a dancer; a sculptor; and a painter. His life’s mission has been the preservation of Rastafari culture through his passion for art and music.
King Tebah has dedicated over a decade to the Rasta Village Band as the lead drummer, and has traveled around the globe to countries such as Germany, China, Mexico and Cuba to share the message of his Rastafari and African roots through music and dance.
Since 2010, King Tebah has worked as a tour guide within the Rasta Village Community, where he continues to educate guests with drum and dancing lessons. Many of the inspirational murals decorating Rastafari Indigenous Village are King Tebah’s works of art, and his drumming plays a central role in our sacred medicine ceremonies. His performing group, Prince Tebah and the Sons of Thunder, opened the first ever Reggae SunSplash in 1979; and played with Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, and other reggae legends.
Queen Izeteh Berhan is a Rastafari artisan, teacher, and mother to four children. She considers herself an One Love Therapist ™; intuitively working with the essential elements of fire, earth, water, and wind. She has been trained as a Reiki Energy Healing Master and has been practicing for 22 years; been a plant medicine facilitator since 2016; and is a lifelong student of traditional Rastafari Ital cooking and healing techniques.
Queen I. has embraced the preservation of indigenous healing techniques within the Rastafari and wider Jamaican society, as a personal mission. She knows the healing properties of almost every plant in the garden, and how to prepare and administer them; and assists others seeking healing, as a part of her own healing process. At her workshop in the Village, Queen handcrafts a wide variety of skin-care products from indigenous Jamaican plants and herbs and also offers her adaptation of traditional herbal bush-baths.
Queen I. attended the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, and was an English teacher at the prestigious Jamaica College, a traditional high school. She was one of the earliest employees at the groundbreaking IRIE FM radio station, the first station to play reggae music around the clock. Her work there as a record librarian gave Queen I. deep exposure to a wide range of reggae music, and helped guide her to Rastafari livity (way of life). Among other achievements at IRIE FM, Queen I. was an original pioneer of using Jamaican patois in advertising announcements— becoming a recognized and beloved voice in every part of the island.
Sugah, aka Robert Farquharson is a founding member of Rastafari Indigenous Village. He is a father of four children, a drum maker, musician, farmer, herbalist, and spiritual physician. Sugah came to Rastafari from early roots in Jamaica’s Revivalist and Kumina traditions, which preserved African practices in the colonial and post-colonial eras. These traditions focus on spiritual diagnoses of physical illness, and on “cutting and clearing” the obstacles in patients’ lives.
They use prayers, chants, incense, and the distinctive Kumina style of drumming to call in ancestors and higher elements like the wind and the trees. He is one of very few people island-wide who preserve the culture of drum making by hand, and is especially skilled in making the Djembe drum of West Africa.
Sugah generously shares his knowledge with visitors and youth to preserve and promote this disappearing African tradition. Sugah is known as a prodigious farmer who fiercely protects indigenous plants, and stands on his belief that for every illness, a remedy can be found in nature.
Cardolisa Wray is a vegan chef, massage therapist, cultural curator, experiential designer, and entrepreneur. She brings the perspective of the Millennial generation to the Village, taking the lead on developing and expanding our wellness offerings. Cardolisa is also the director and curator of our musical, art, food and event offerings, bringing stars like Richie Spice, Mighty Diamond and other Jamaican cultural icons to RIV for special appearances.
In the kitchen, Cardolisa carries classic Jamaican cuisine into the future with plant-based ingredients, while faithfully preserving traditional Ital recipes. Ital—from vital—food emphasizes fresh, organic fruits and vegetables. It uses no animal products, processed ingredients, or preservatives. Cardolisa takes these traditions, pairs them with ingredients mostly grown or made in the Village, and turns them into delicious and nutritious works of art.
When not at the Village, Cardolisa can be found managing her Montego Bay catering business, Vegan to Rahtid, serving a local and international clientele.
Baaba, aka Alton Parker, is a founding member of the Rastafari Indigenous Village and father to two children. Like every Villager, he is deeply committed to the preservation of Rastafari and Jamaican traditions. His special area of focus is the Kumina tradition that has its roots in the Congo and Uganda regions of Africa. One feature of Kumina ceremonies is their ability to induce a unique form of consciousness known as myal. Myal consciousness features a form of spirit invocation sometimes described as spirit possession by outside observers. It is characterized by a state of intense spiritual exaltation that can endow super physical powers.
Baaba’s deep immersion, long roots, and artistry in these traditions— and his dedication to preserving them— have been critical to advancing a key aspect of the Villages core mission: to genuinely share Jamaican traditions and the authentic Rastafari livity with outside visiting guests. Along with Sugah, he is one of the pioneers of RIV’s distinctive new drumming style, a combination of Nyabinghi and Kumina styles that we call Nyakum or Kumabinghi.
King Toto is one of the most faithful and persistent carriers of ancient drum making techniques that originated in Africa. He plays and teaches the Djembe, Fundi, Kete and Bass drums. King Toto crafts each of his drums exclusively from natural, foraged materials— and a great deal of love.
His drums have carried the message of One Love and I-nity to the far corners of the planet, sending out vibrations of the same patient strength King Toto exhibits in his workshop every day. He is also a revered bush doctor whose famous Ramp Ruff Root & Bark Tonic (™) enlivens the circulatory system— and is reputedly responsible for the creation of many babies.
Most of all, King Toto is a close student of life, dropping precious pearls of wisdom as he carefully and deliberately chisels away, carving another piece of wood into an instrument of change. When you get a drum from Toto, you don’t just get a drum— he puts a little piece of himself into every creation.
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