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The Seven Books That Changed My Life

Kush Asher is a Jamaican storyteller and perpetual student of the film inspired by the Most High. He is based in Kingston, Jamaica but he has traveled around Africa telling stories and spent six months in Kenya making movies. He has done music videos for Grammy winners Sean Paul, Damian Marley, and Reggae legends Big Youth and the Mystic Revealers. His television work includes a fashion reality show, Mission Catwalk, and a business reality show, NCB Capital Quest (Produced by the LAB International; based in Kingston). Kush has also made a series of films with Spielworks Media, an independent film, and production company based in Kenya. His most recent project is a feature film called 50 Days in Afrika. These are the books that influenced his life and work as a storyteller.

The Wise Mind Of His Imperial Majesty

 

Well, the name says it all, this pocket-sized book in my personal opinion should be a recommended text for every youth regardless of race, color or IQ. I wish I had this book the first day entering Jamaica College, then Wolmers Boys High and subsequently Kingston Technical High School.

Presented are selected speeches and quotes from Him Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I…Earth’s rightful ruler. Words cannot begin to express how moved I was the first time I got a copy of this book…from a friend, Ezra. The book has to date appeared repeatedly in many of my music videos and short films. Through the inspiration of just The Emperor’s words, I have learned to be a very honest storyteller. I have learned to have respect for every frame, every feeling and every emotion that the story will need.

 “Blessed is he that publishes the word”. 

The Philosophies and Opinions of Marcus Garvey, Edited by Amy Jaques

Many years ago, I saw this book sitting on a bedside table of my brother Orville. First I was confused because I never understood why Orville had a Garvey book, he wasn’t a Rasta. Then the only thing I knew about Marcus Garvey was, he was a national hero who had a big business in America and bought ships. I had no idea about the UNIA or Garvey’s grand influence on Africans around the world and subsequently the CIA.

Marcus Garvey was born in a very humble part of Jamaica, and in one lifetime he grew to be the loudest voice and the greatest influence on Africa’s liberation that continues today. I have learned that everything I do will affect someone somewhere so I am very careful with the images I capture and the impact they will have on the viewers

The Alchemist by Paulo Cuelho

A book belonging to Anya, my sister and has been in the library at home (my mother bookshelf) for a couple of years. I saw it one day, never knew about it or about the author. “The Alchemist, such an interesting title”, I decided to give it a read…your gold is always buried beneath your feet…agh boy.

This is the only book I have ever read cover to cover at one go. I learned, when it really comes down to it your Personal Legend is a journey you have to take alone. If your heart desires treasures it’s usually right beneath you or inside you.

So don’t go searching the world and its things, you usually have all you need. I felt like I was Santiago, and was thankful for all the Alchemists I’ve met on my journey so far. As a filmmaker, I was moved by the current or the energy of how the author told the story and shaped his words. Awesome book yeah man.

Groundings with My Brothers by Dr. Walter Rodney

I was truly blessed when filmmaker Clairmont Chung came to me to work on W.A.R Stories, a documentary about the life of Guyanese Historian and Political Activist, Dr. Walter Anthony Rodney (notice the WAR).

“We must understand that we are still locked in struggle. And we are reaffirming our commitment to struggle, and we are saying we are ready to proceed. We are moving forward, we are not intimidated, we recognize the pressures, but we are far from bending under those pressures.”

Some of the last words from Dr. Walter Rodney shortly before he was cut down in battle.

I had to edit a documentary on his life which took me some four years. During this time I had to read his books (I read some), and in doing so I found a history that was hidden inside me and it lit a spark, Groundings with Brothers answered many questions I had not even begun to ask myself. That spark has grown into a candle that has guided me on my journey from then until now.

Art can affect people and shape a generation. Dr. Rodney’s only weapon, even after he went home to Guyana was his pen, paper, his words and his voice. I find those tools to be quite important in these days, especially if you aim to tell your own stories. Groundings with My Brothers has also guided many conversations with Rastafari all over as this was and still is, “The leading force of expression of Black consciousness in the Caribbean”.

 

Tried and True Revelations of a Rebellious Youth by Dutty Bookman

If an Anthropologist was to explain the history of a generation reshaping itself post-colonization, this book would be an apt reference. An autobiographical story of Dutty Bookman, a youth who grew up in the cities of Kingston, studied abroad and desired to return and build his nation, and used his art as his tool and weapon. It is this motivation that guides I too always tell stories that will build I nation and I race and bring harmony and balance to earth. Being around Dutty for a few years and collaborating on a number of projects excited me, and I was intrigued to see how he documented his journey…truly inspiring.

As a concerned human being who tries to do for others, it is important to remain true to oneself or otherwise risk being of no use to the revolution at all”.

The Analects of Confucius Kung Chu

One day after a group yoga session I had a conversation with Ainsley, a Jamaican with Asian heritage. We were talking about my balance when I was on stage filming. I usually cover events for hours holding the camera handheld. So Ainsley helped me gain some kind of control over the weight of the camera and how I moved while capturing images…he told me a really cool story about water that I can’t completely remember now. He mentioned a lot of peace, being still, how to just be in the frequency of it all, he kinda just made everything very simple, like only your doing exists in the world. This excited me so I wanted to know more about this divine inner peace and so it lead me to my first exposure to Chinese literature. Confucius was a teacher of morality and culture among other things. The way of moral instruction and to be steadfast and to tell the truth.

He believed that music and the words were essential to creating a harmony of the soul many centuries later, a book called the Bible would be written and the lines “Singers and Players of instrument will be there”…. which I think meant the same thing. We have struggled for the upliftment of a people for many moons in the Caribbean and I’m sure is the same for many countries trying to find their way and to stand on one’s own soil.

We have blamed our Politicians for the lack of clean water, the lack of food and the lack of security. In this book I found the simplest of solutions cleverly stated, the best you can do for your government is to be the best father (mother) you can to your son(daughter) and for the child to be the best daughter(son) likewise, I no longer see politicians…if I(the human race)am to be the best that I(the human race) can be, a government becomes obsolete. To see what is right and not do it is want of courage, these are some of the teachings of Confucius.

 

The Power Of Now by Eckhart Tolle.

I have journeyed through the Holy Bible at varying times in my life, seeking refuge, truth and answers I guess. During a time of spiritual weakness, I became confused as to where in the Bible I would find my spiritual awakening. My Producer, Kimala who was disturbed at my lack of enthusiasm for life and all its glory recommended The Power of Now as a path to spiritual awakening from religious bondage. I have always tried to emulate directors and filmmakers as a young artist because I thought that is what you were supposed to do.

Eckhart Tolle taught me to look within for that light and without delving too much in what this book offers I can say it lit a small candle that allows me to now look within for answer and to appreciate the beauty of being present, especially in conversations where my streams of consciousness usually rushes in with a myriad of thoughts.

Enlightenment is not something so difficult that only a few can achieve, thereby making them more special than everyone else. It is simply the end of personal suffering. To be enlightened is to be at peace within yourself. That is all. There is strength in being still in being silent, and as my candle slowly grows brighter I often feel the energy of sun within the flesh that covers my soul. As patience grows, I feel I’ve become a more peaceful filmmaker.

 

Oyunga Pala is a Kenyan newspaper columnist. The blog examines the texture of everyday Kenyan life and the challenges of modernity and disillusion. The writings commonly feature the struggle of the Kenyan male to maintain integrity in contemporary society.

1 Comments

  1. samuel dzombo

    It’s good being a book lover. Thanks for these books with some politics in them.

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