Bob Marley

  • Jamaica
  • Human Rights, Political

Robert Nesta Marley was a Jamaican musician and activist who believed in uniting Black culture and fighting oppression through the power of music. Though he struggled with poverty as a child, Bob found inspiration in music and formed the Wailing Wailers with his friends as practicing Rastafaris; the religious movement combines tenets of Christianity, Pan Africanism, and spirituality. As Marley’s popularity and star power grew, he continued writing songs about pervasive social issues in Jamaica, such as unemployment, food rationing, oppression, and political violence.

Despite an assassination attempt on his life, Marley never shied away from his musical mission and would go on to hold several large concerts in an attempt to bridge peace during times of racial and political strife. Returning to Jamaica in 1978 to perform his One Love Peace Concert in the midst of a political civil war, Marley brought together two opposing political candidates to unite and shake hands on stage in front of a crowd of 32,000 people. Proceeds from the concert were used to provide needed sanitary facilities and housing in West Kingston, though unfortunately, politically motivated violence remained persistent in the nation.

Bob passed away from cancer in 1981 at the age of 36. Nearly 40,000 people paid their respects during his memorial service in Jamaica. Marley received the Order of Merit from the Jamaican government and was awarded the Medal of Peace from the United Nations. Today, The Bob Marley Foundation continues to honor his legacy by helping people and organizations in developing nations. Bob’s albums still sell by the thousands weekly and call on his listeners to aim for peace.

Jamaica

  • Population
    2,950,210
  • Capital
    Kingston
  • GDP (PPP)
    $8,991
  • August 6, 1962
  • Total Area
    10,991 km2 (166th)
  • Demonym
    Jamaican
  • Government
    Unitary parliamentary constitutional republic

Artwork

The association of Bob Marley with Jamaica and vice versa is undeniable. One is seemingly inseparable from the other. Jamaica has become a vibrant tourist destination, which accounts for nearly 20% of its GDP. Bob is everywhere; his music is in the air. His likeness is on murals, posters, signs and shirts.

Due to his mainstream appeal, Bob’s messages of peace and love are frequently misrepresented as the soundtrack for leisure. History has softened the lens on his advocacy for Pan-Africanism, Rastafari and unity. This illustration represents one of Bob’s dreadlocks taking on the contour of Jamaica. The country is central, it is top of mind, and it is part of Bob. And Bob is part of it.

  • Illustration by
    Johnny Selman