Rita Marley, the primary, benefactor of Bob Marley’s legacy received honorary status in Ghana on Emancipation Day (Aug. 1) when she was granted the distinction of being honorary citizen for her philanthropic efforts and social contributions throughout Africa but particularly in the Gold Coast where she has resided for almost two decades.
The acknowledgement was publicly recognized during Panafest where a biennial cultural celebration honors ancestors and also lauds the contribution of worthy individuals. Considered an icon of the Diaspora, Marley was also presented a Ghanaian passport.
“Congratulations to our beloved Nana Rita Marley!” Ambassador Kwesi Quartey, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration said.
In addition to celebration of the Pan-African History Festival (PANAFEST), the occasion marked the golden jubilee of the Organization of African Union (OAU/AU).
“Indeed Mrs. Rita Marley continues to leverage her unique name recognition to showcase Ghana and talk up Ghana’s pan-Africanist role and tourism potential at every opportunity.”
The singer and entrepreneur moved to the continent in 1993. Soon after taking up residency she was given the name Nana Afua Adobeya1 by a village chief.
There she established friendly relations with the local elders and chiefs by helping to improve roads, a water supply and electricity. She developed a school and a health care center.
She also built a recording studio in the capital city of Accra.
“We are thrilled to see the Ghana government recognizing the tremendous contribution Nana Rita has made to Ghana socially as well as economically. This is a historical day for those of us from the diaspora,” Dr. Erieka Bennett, head of mission, AU Diaspora Africa Forum said.
Born Rita Anderson, the singer was born in Cuba. At an early age she moved to Kingston’s Trench Town, where fame found her and permanently surrounded her as one of the three iconic background singers to back the music and recordings of the Caribbean’s first superstar; became his wife, mother of three Grammy-winning musicians and matriarch of the musical dynasty which includes the entire Marley family.
After the super-star’s death, the widow of the Rastafarian advocate emerged a principal figure on the music scene. She established a solo career by launching a publishing and recording company she named Rita Marley Music. In addition she guided the careers of her off-springs by helping to direct Ziggy Marley & The Melody Makers, a family entity that has since won more Grammy awards than any other reggae — recording group or family. Dominant on the music scene she maintained a prominent role on the circuit promoting concerts, festivals, reggae music and the unification of Africa.
Allegedly, her singular effort in preserving and promoting her late husband contributed greatly to his fast-rise to the status of international legend. Her mission in Africa extends to Kenya and Ethiopia where she has also aided in the development of many projects.
In 2005, the widow was named honorary citizen in Ethiopia just before a huge ceremony marked the biggest cultural gathering in Addis Ababa which commemorated the 60th birthday anniversary of the acclaimed reggae king.