The phrase 'Red, Gold and Green' frequently occurs in
reggae song lyrics, as an affectionate reference to the tricolour
flag of Ethiopia.
The colours red, yellow and green were first used as a
national flag during the late nineteenth century, though
initially they were flown as three separate pennants (long
narrow streamers) of equal width, one above the other. In
1897, these were incorporated into a single rectangular-shaped
horizontal tricolour design, in the order red, yellow,
green, from top to bottom. In 1941, the order of the
stripes was reversed, with the green at the top. Most
recently, in 1996, an interlaced five-pointed star on a
blue disc was added in the centre, though the flag is
still used without the disc in many areas.
The symbolism of the colours is very important. Red
is a memorial to the blood shed
by patriots. Yellow usually stands for
the wealth of treasured heritage. Green
represents the forests and vegetation,
without which human life could not exist. Indeed, these
colours came to symbolise pan-African liberation in the
flags of many former colonies, being apparently adopted
from the flag of Ghana by several newly independant
counries during the late 1950s and 60s.
Many Rastafarians pride themselves in wearing items of
clothing displaying red, yellow and green. The
traditional Rasta tam hat is a good example, worn as a
crowning glory. Today, a wide variety of other garments
and accessories are available, enabling one to be dressed
literally from head to toe in glowing red, gold and green,
which can be an eye-catching statement of a positive
attitude of respect towards others.
The Ethiopian tricolour has become so closely associated
with Rasta culture that it often appears as a backdrop at
reggae concerts, draped over the stage behind the
musicians. In addition it is used as a background or to
adorn Rasta websites, reggae album covers, and so on,
sometimes in association with typical symbols such the Conquering Lion of Judah, or the Marijuana leaf. As commercialisation has inevitably
caught up with the trend, you may see the familiar red,
gold and green plastered indiscriminately over modern
fashion accessories, which seem to dilute the original
message of roots and culture. But where the Rasta colours
are used to subtle effect, the result can be very
In reggae lyrics, you will often hear the exhortation,
Let hands and heart be pure and clean
To rally round the Red, Gold and Green!
which seems to be based partly on Psalm
Note: I was advised by a visitor
to this website of the following: "H.I.M
the Lion of Judah, Haile Selassie I, flew his colors
which are red at the bottom (He would never put blood on
all our heads, we will wash our feet in the blood of the
wicked.) Gold is in the middle and Green is at the top.
Those are the colors in the order as they Fly In Ethiopia.
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