Donisha Rita-Claire Prendergast is an actress, writer, activist, and filmmaker. She is the granddaughter of Rita Marley and the late Reggae superstar Bob Marley. In this exclusive interview with Weekend Magazine, she talks about her Bob Marley, life as an artist, and more. Excerpts:
Weekend Magazine: As a filmmaker, what inspires your travels?
Donisha Rita-Claire Prendergast: I am a documentary filmmaker who travels often to document as well as speak to different communities. When I was in India in 2019, I conducted a hip-hop and reggae workshop for Dharavi kids. When I travelled to the Bahamas, I helped with recovery efforts for hurricane Dorian survivors for two days. I have been travelling this earth learning, researching, documenting, challenging, sharing and becoming greater than my education or environment allows.
I was inspired to become a traveller and explorer by my grandmother who also travelled a lot. As a black woman, she was always doing lots of grassroot work that doesn't get public recognition. I saw her live and uphold the legacy of her husband in addition to taking care of all the children. She was only 34 years when my grandfather transitioned. She has been able to accomplish so much. I got the zeal to travel from her, in order to influence and create more space for women.
WM: How do you get funds for your work?
Prendergast: I save, plan and network. I contact those I know and if I don't know anybody, I try to make friends and know somebody, especially for my accommodation. I get a greater understanding of the country and the locals when I stay with people instead of in a hotel.
WM: Who among your parents is a child of Bob Marley?
Prendergast: It's my mum Sharon Marley, Bob and Rita Marley's eldest daughter. I am also the eldest of my parents' children.
My father, Peter Pendergast was the first referee to officiate at the World Cup from the Caribbean in 2002. When he officiated it, he drew a lot of attention because in a match between Brazil and Belgium, he disallowed a goal from one of the Belgian's striker and it caused a big raucous. But he stood by his decision and that taught me a lot. From that incident, I learnt to have integrity under pressure. He wouldn't have the international community change his decision. He knew he was right. At that same time, he also officiated Russia versus Tunisia. Now my father is a FIFA soccer referee who trains those who officiate at the World Cup.
WM: What do you know about your grandfather, Bob Marley?
Prendergast: Because he transitioned before I was born, I only knew of him through stories that my grandmother, uncles and my mother told me. I noticed that anytime I travelled, people always have a story to share about what my grandfather did or how they met him when he passed through a country. I learnt who he was from the legacy he has left all over the world.
WM: What are some of those lessons you have learnt from what you heard about him?
Prendergast: He is always described as a simple person. He was the kind of man you never really knew until you associated with him. He never entered a room and demanded attention. He was bent on expanding people's perception of themselves and of each other beyond race, nationality, or where they live. I too have taken that from him. I love to travel, cross borders, and break down barriers.
WM: Where are you based currently?
Prendergast: I am based wherever I need to be. I was born in Jamaica but grew up travelling around the world. I understand that we live everywhere that we are. I finished studying film production on scholarship in Canada recently.
WM: How many countries have you been to?
Prendergast: I have been to many countries like Ethiopia, Israel, South Africa, Jamaica, Canada, the United States of America, United Kingdom, India, Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Japan, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, and the Bahamas. I have also been to Belgium, France, Germany, England, Amsterdam, Russia, and several more.
WM: Are there still places you wish to travel to?
It's important for me to explore Africa. As a filmmaker, I know the creative industry has a lot to contribute to the core development of the people. I want to see how we can get more collaborations. I also want to focus on the diaspora. How come their stories are not being told? In Nigeria they speak pidgin, we speak patois in Jamaica. We are not as different as people think we are. The blood that unites us is thicker than any water that could divide us.
WM: What would you say you have achieved from your travels and work in different communities?
Prendergast: I have been doing some work since 2011 in Tivoli Gardens, Kingston, Jamaica where an attempt was made on my grandfather's life. They shot him and my grandmother too. That bullet is still in her head till today because doctors said it was too dangerous to remove it.
I am ready to break down barriers because I have to find a way to heal. By working with the young people in that community, it has helped me to reconnect to my root. My family was born in the ghetto but I was born uptown. I needed to do this community work to know what ghetto life is like. It makes me know where I come from and what my responsibilities are.
I show the young people in Tivoli how to write their own story, and how to make documentaries and short films. Through that, they have created their own organization called Faces of Tivoli, an attempt to change the face of their community.
I'm in a place called Occupied Pinnacle, the birthplace of the Rastafari movement in Jamaica where many of our ancestors are buried. The Jamaican government is in collusion with the private developers who sell off the land, and that, we believe is very disgraceful and disrespectful to the Rastafari. I led a movement that occupied the physical space so the government and developers could no longer sell the land. From that, we raised a lot of awareness around the world. Today, we are still in negotiation with the government on the 500 acres of land out of which they only want to give us 1.5 acres.
WM: How do your granddad's songs influence you?
Prendergast: The messages in his songs never get old. It continuously reminds me we are still in a battle, a physical, emotional, spiritual and sometimes sexual warfare when it comes to women. We just have to stay focused and avoid distractions that will take us away from our goals.
Source: African News Agency