Ras Igie (left) collects his award from Barbara Blake Hannah at the annual Bad Friday commemoration in Pitfour, St. James. Alan Lewin photo

Written By: Michel Nattoo/Alan Lewin

David Elliot, more popularly known from the 60’s as Ras Igie, is a household name and a symbol of perseverance and artistic wit. Many will remember him from his days of appearing on shows as a dub poet with Mutabaruka – one of his main influences, as well as from appearances at the once popular Strand Theatre in the 80’s.

In particular, Ras Igie’s big break came at that historic theatre. One Christmas morning concert, Igie saw himself sharing the spotlight with prominent dub poet, Ras Views of North Gully, and they dynamic duo of Pants and Sonny Ranking. That important brush with the lights of purpose and grounded fame would drive Ras Igie on a life dedicated to the arts and empowerment of his people.

He went on to release an album, which featured one of his more popular poems – ‘Black Cloud’, which at the time called for the release of nelson Mandela. The poem also called for the freedom of other incarcerated Africans. Despite that being just one of his many poems, in retrospect, Ras Igie explains, poems in those days were underappreciated. That would all change though when one of the people he most admires – Mutabaruka, came on the scene. Mutabaruka unveiled his ‘Little Butter Pan’ poetry, to widespread acclaim. It permeated most radio stations of the day, and Igie found himself drawn to becoming a part of it. That level of success endured by Mutabaruka was enough to inspire Ras Igie to pursue his own, and rekindle that passion for poetry.

He recommitted to the art form and soon after started appearing on shows, becoming a regular with Ras Views and others. So began the rich legacy of the man many celebrate today.

Ras Igie was born Canterbury area of St. James and attended the Albion All Age School in the 60’s. He went on to the Harrison Memorial High School, but had to leave that institution for a school known as Irwin Hill, as a result of gang violence. Ras Igie did all he could to avoid getting caught in the claws of gang violence – a commitment which saw him changing schools several times after. At the time, warring factions from North Gully and Paradise Pen wreaked havoc. Their attempts to expand, however, would never sway Ras Igie from his path, as firm parenting ensured that he remains committed to the straight and narrow road. Even witnessing the dark Coral Gardens Atrocities factored into Ras Igie’s commitment to charting a different path for himself. That saw him becoming a member of the Priest Brown Potter House Crew.

The band of extraordinary tradesmen influenced Ras Igie greatly. He would learn from the master craftsmen who would make eye-catching pots, water jars, flowers and pots, predominantly from clay. Igie made a few of those items and sold them, earning a living for himself. Then, he truly became an artist.

These days, Ras Igie – the Rose Heights resident, continues his artistic pursuits, and have honed them well over the years. He can be seen selling holistic herbal healing products in Sam Sharpe Square on most days. He’s also continued crafting items, and is well-known for his belts and tams.

In April 2019, he was honoured by the Rastafarian community for his outstanding contribution in the field of organization and entertainment at the annual Bad Friday commemoration at the Nyabinghi Centre in Pitfour, St. James.