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 ‘Garvey’s Ghost’ : Conservative Gender, RastafarI, and Reggae in the Memorialisation of Marcus Garvey ‘Garvey’s Ghost’ : Conservative Gender, RastafarI, and Reggae in the Memorialisation of Marcus Garvey Traci-­‐Ann Wint “When I am dead wrap the mantle of the Red, Black and Green around me, for in the new life I shall rise with God’s grace and blessing to lead the millions up the heights of triumph with the colours that you well know. Look for me in the whirlwind or the storm; look for me all around you for with God’s grace, I shall come, and bring with me countless millions of black slaves who have died in America and the West Indies, and the millions in Africa to aid you in the fight for Liberty, Freedom and Life. With God’s dearest blessings, I leave you for a while.” -­‐ Marcus Garvey, written upon going to the Federal Prison in Atlanta Georgia USA in 1925 – quoted in Black Power in America: Garvey’s Impact on Jamaica and Africa – Amy Jacques Garvey” HIS WORDS live on. HIS WORK – the foundation of BLACK NATIONALISM. Children, Children Humble yourselves and be calm One day you will remember him No one remembers Old Marcus Garvey, No one remembers Old Marcus Garvey Garvey’s old yet young -­‐Amy Jacques Garvey 1Old Marcus Garvey – Burning Spear Our collective vision of Marcus Garvey has shifted continuously over time. From radical Black Nationalist and conservative pan-­‐Africanist to foolish dreamer and ridiculed failure; exalted prophet and national hero; to icon, image, name; we have understood Marcus Garvey and his ideologies differently as the decades and our own convictions have changed. Today our simple memory of him is of his impact. We remember Garvey the symbol, Garvey the elocutionist, 1 Burning Spear, Marcus Garvey / Garvey's Ghost, 1975,. Garvey who shouted ‘Africa for Africans’. We remember Ethiopia, the United Negro Improvement Association (U.N.I.A.), and the proud raising of flags of red, black and green. For this memory of Garvey there are many to thank, but here we focus on a few who purposefully championed his cause. Amy Jacques Garvey, whose own significance is often clouded under her title as Marcus Garvey’s second wife, was the unheralded backbone of the U.N.I.A and worked to ensure that the movement and Garvey’s vision transcended his own persecution and lived on beyond his mortal death. The Rastafari movement that grew out of Jamaica in the 1930s has also played a major role in commemorating Garvey and has secured for him a place within popular memory. Marcus Garvey’s words, images and ideas permeate popular culture through Rastafari’s Reggae music and the prominence, acceptance and acknowledgement that the music form has achieved throughout Jamaica and the world at large. With song lyrics such as “Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds”2 which quote excerpts from the speeches and writings of Marcus Garvey; whole albums like Burning Spear’s Marcus Garvey/Garvey’s Ghost3 dedicated to honouring Garvey; and the unmistakable presence of the U.N.I.A’s red, black and green (used along with gold) in Rastafari dress and adornment, it would be difficult to argue against Marcus Garvey’s influence on Rastafari and Reggae. It is of interest to note 2 Taken from Bob Marley’s ‘Redemption Song’ which quotes two lines from a speech given by Marcus Garvey at Menelik, Hall Sydney, Nova Scotia, October 1937. “We are going to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery because whilst others might free the body, none but ourselves can free the mind.” The Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers, Vol. VII: November 1927-­‐August 1940 p. 791 3 Burning Spear’s ‘Marcus Garvey’ was released in 1975 on Island Records ILPS 9377. The dub version ‘Garvey’s Ghost’ was released four months later. however where Garvey’s impact on Rastafari is seen and where it is acknowledged. Which aspects have been attributed to Garvey’s influence and which have been touted as inherently Rastafarian? Where can we draw parallels between Marcus Garvey and Garveyism and Rastafarianism? The movements grew like siblings, born one after the other out of similar circumstances and with comparable goals. Though each has its own identity, the impact of the older Garveyism on the younger Rastafarianism is unmistakable. While Rastafarians herald Garvey as a prophet and revolutionary, a rebel who moved against the grain, much of the commonality between the movements lies in a mutual conservatism. Garvey and Garveyites and Rastafarians past and present have held on to similarly traditionalist notions of religious belief, respectability, sex and gender. Garvey extolled a very particular notion of manhood and manliness while Rastafarians strictly defined and aimed to control the role of the woman in society. Yet for all their continuities, their differences were stark and Garvey openly denounced Rastafarians and their veneration of Emperor Haile Selassie. That Ethiopia’s Haile Selassie would have been given such a position of importance in Rastafarianism is not surprising, nor is that the fact that Marcus Garvey is noted as the prophet who announced the coming of the ‘messiah’, Haile Selassie, the man-­‐god. In his speeches and writings Garvey emphasized an Africa for Africans. He spoke often of An Africa removed from the clutches of Europe and ruled by black men. He advocated for the self-­‐awareness and self-­‐reliance of black people, arguing that true liberation could only be achieved on the African continent as the white man in America would never award the black man equal status or complete freedom. A religious man, his speeches and writings often called upon the Old Testament books of the Christian Bible. He time and time again, quoted Psalm 68:31, cementing the religious and political importance of Ethiopia. In a May 1923 article featured in the Negro World newspaper he stated “4No one can tell what tomorrow will bring forth, but remember that the Psalmist prophesied: “Princes shall come out of Egypt and Ethiopia shall stretch forth her hands unto God.”[Psalm 68:31] The hour is drawing nigh. Africa herself is throwing off the shackles of the ages. The new universal spirit, the spirit of liberty, has taken hold of the people. What, then, can the enemy do? You cannot destroy the spirit of men. You may shackle their bodies; you may imprison them, but you cannot permanently kill the spirit that seeks freedom”. (Garvey 1923) Ethiopia, then, was a signifier of freedom. The repetition of this Psalm gained further importance alongside the charge attributed to Garvey by the Rastafarians to “look to Africa where a black King shall rise” and Garvey’s pronouncement that each race of people should interpret and worship God for themselves, saying as he discussed the image of God 5“If his God be of his race let him worship his God as he desires; if the white man has the idea of a white God, let him worship his God as he desires . . . but we shall worship [God] through the spectacles of Ethiopia.” (Garvey, 1921) According to Theologian Noel Erskine, the consideration of these statements and the fact of Jamaica’s history of being steeped in Africanist forms of Christianity and Religiosity “provided a rational and reasonable basis for Rastafarians to look to Ethiopia for the renewing of their hope and the advent of their salvation.” (Erskine 2005, 35). This religious 4 Marcus Garvey, The Negro World, 12 May 1923. 5 ed., The Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers, Vol III, p. 603 ed. Robert Hill (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983). background, he posited, made it plausible for some Rastafari to ‘make a leap of faith and speak of Haile Selassie as the Christ’ (Erskine 2005, 28). Garvey’s religious intonation and frequent use of the Bible, worked to have him declared as a prophet, sent to bring the message of uplift of the race. For Rastafarians the divinity of Haile Selassie ensured the divinity of African people, securing for them a place of repute despite a history of oppression. Garvey who once held high hopes for Selassie’s reign, later denounced him for having fled Ethiopia upon the Italian invasion, saying of the man revered by Rastafarians: 6“When the facts of history are written Haile Selassie of Abyssinia will go down as a great coward who ran away from his country to save his skin and left the millions of his countrymen to struggle through a terrible war that he brought upon them because of his political ignorance and his racial disloyalty. It is a pity that a man of the limited intellectual calibre and weak political character like Haile Selassie became Emperor of Abyssinia at so crucial a time in the political history of the world. . . Every Negro who is proud of his race must be ashamed of the way in which Haile Selassie surrendered himself to the white wolves of Europe.” (Garvey, 1937) Despite Garvey’s repudiation of Haile Selassie and his subsequent denouncement of Rastafari, he continued to be upheld as prophet. Of greater importance than Garvey’s own religious beliefs and his newly expressed negative opinions of Haile Selassie was his original message about the significance of Ethiopia and his teachings on self-­‐reliance, proud blackness and desertion of what Rastafarians referred to as ‘Babylon’ for an Africa ruled by Africans. 6 Editorial by Garvey in the ‘Black Man’ magazine, London, March 1937 Garvey’s declaration that ‘Africa must be free’ and his fight for the liberation of African peoples made his teachings particularly attractive to poor men, in impoverished rural Jamaica. Garvey’s tireless and unapologetic proclamation of the rights that should be accorded to people of African descent was 7“we declare to the world that Africa must be free, that the entire Negro race must be emancipated from industrial bondage, peonage and serfdom; we make no compromise, we make no apology in this our declaration.” Leonard Howell, often described as the ‘First Rasta’ or the Father of Rastafari is often credited with being the first person to preach the divinity of Haile Selassie, asserting that he was the ‘Messiah returned to earth’. Like Marcus Garvey, he was a charismatic man, able to influence a sizeable following and like Garvey was heavily persecuted, ridiculed and eventually imprisoned for his ideas and his teachings and the impact that they had on a black population government leaders desired to keep silenced and oppressed. Howell was a known Garveyite and Africanist, and his life followed a trajectory similar to that of Garvey, born in rural Jamaica, he traveled to Panama, to the U.S. and eventually returned to Jamaica where by 1933, his Rastafari movement had begun to garner a substantial following. Sometime around 1935 Howell published a Rastafari tract, called The Promised Key, under the pen name G.G. Maragh. This text aimed to outline the basic tenets of Rastafari and to give instruction for the life of a Rastafarian. 7 Marcus Garvey, Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey or Africa for Africans, ed. Amy Jacques-­‐Garvey (London: Cass, 1967). 54 Although the text presents an exclusivist vision and a Selassaie to be worshipped, with which Marcus Garvey would not agree, the emphasis on respectability, repatriation to Africa and a rejection of the corrupting principles of the white race were in line with Garvey’s teaching. And, while modern day Rastafarians do not necessarily follow the guidelines for daily life as staunchly as Howell would have required in the 1930s evidence of these ideas are present in the modern lifestyle. Amongst the rules for holy living presented in the Promised Key are dietary rules. The eating of meat, fish and salt were prohibited and no food should be had out of tins or bottles. This ‘natural’ lifestyle and focus on eating of the land is prominent amongst Rastafari today. Early Rastafarianism also held very definitive ideas on respectability and the role of women in the socio-­‐religious movement. This strong Patriarchalism screams from the pages of Howell’s The Promised Key. The relationship between men and women within Rastafari is complex at best. Ethiopia is often referred to as the motherland and using the feminine pronoun, she is heralded as a queenly, rich, beautiful woman. According to Howell “She is that rich national woman that has charmed the men of nations to be with her.” (Howell c. 1935) However, Rastafari women are traditionally expected to be subdued and servile, deferring to the knowledge and expertise of the male in all matters, seemingly contradictory to this she also is simultaneously referred to in royal terms such as Queen, Empress, Princess and Earthmother, and it is understood that the home is her domain. According to Imani M. Tafari Ama “Rastawoman take pride in being elevated to queens and empresses, as counterparts to the kings and princes, against the Babylon designations “men”, “women”, and “people”. The role of king involves a Rasta ministering to his queen and offspring in domestic affairs” (Tafari-­‐Ama 1998, 92). Even as he emphasized the servitude expected of women, Howell showed the woman as an authority figure when tied to her king. Queen Omega only holds power through King Ras Tafari. In the tract subsection entitled Ethiopia’s Kingdom he writes to his reader, “Dear inhabitants of this world King Ras Tafari and Queen Omega are the foundation stones of the Resurrection of the Kingdom of Ethiopia. Their prayer and labour for our Resurrection is past finding out; no library in this world is able to contain the work of their hands for us, for they work both day and night for our deliverance. . . Speaking for the Universe and the womanhood of man Queen Omega the Ethiopian woman is the crown woman of this world. She hands us Her Rule-­‐Book from the poles of supreme authority she is the Cannon Mistress of creation.” (Howell c. 1935) Subjugation of women in Rastafari is often justified through use of Old Testament passages of the Christian Bible, which specify a position of servitude and subordination for women. Howell near vilifies women in The Promised Key by making Biblical reference to the Genesis story of Adam and Eve as he subtitles the segment ‘Eve the Mother of Evil’ (Howell c. 1935). The hierarchical nature of the relationship between men and women in the Rastafari community at times goes unproblematized as it is seen as the natural order of things as prescribed by the Bible. Ephesians 5:22-­‐24, which states “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing”, is often quoted in defense of this stance. Due to their inferior status, early Rastafari women and women affliliated with certain 8‘houses’ of Rastafari today, had to be initiated or ‘brought into’ Rastafari by a man. Women are also considered to be polluted or unclean as a result of menstruation and child-­‐birth. Rastafarians refer to, interpret and reinterpret Leviticus 15:19 for prescription as to how to deal with this ‘unclean woman’. The Old Testament Bible Passage states “And if a woman have an issue, and her issue in her flesh be blood, she shall be put apart seven days: and whosoever toucheth her shall be unclean until the even.” The fact that this patriarchy is not unique to Rastafari but rather symptomatic of the patriarchal nature of the wider Jamaican society, and has been openly resisted by women in ‘Babylon’ has resulted in a seemingly heightened notion of patriarchy and the role of women within the separated Rastafari communities. According to Tafari-­‐Ama, Rastafarian’s profound use of gendered language contributes to the easily identifiable nature of patriarchy within that society. (Tafari-­‐Ama 1998, 92). Rastafarian women are often referred to a ‘daughter’, highlighting their child-­‐like status and diminishing their stature in relationship to men. Reggae music, identified as the music as the Rastafarian, has also been constantly acknowledged as a largely male sphere and many artists have been openly criticized for their misogynistic lyrics, which range from hyper-­‐sexualizing the woman to over-­‐emphasizing her place in the home. Traditionally obliged to wear long skirts and cover their hair, Rastafari women’s status is further denigrated by men under the guise of protection of her womanhood and the maintenance of respectability. Women’s subordination is openly acknowledged, through not necessarily passively accepted. According to Anthropologist Obiagele Lake “To say that Rastafarian women are subordinated to Rasta men is not tantamount to claiming that women are pawns, that they have no agency or influence, or that they have no personal power. Neither does the claim of women’s subordination mean that they do not respect themselves or are not respected in certain ways by males in the organization. Women are respected if they maintain the rules that suppress them.” (Lake 1998, 4). Much like the Garveyite women who worked within Marcus Garvey’s explicit notions of senior manhood and the subordinate place of the woman within the movement in order to advance a race cause that benefitted them as well, Rastafari women have found ways to work within and around this notion of their inferiority. Like the Garveyites, living in a society where they were persecuted for their race, gender and political beliefs, Rastafari women have accepted a requirement of hyper-­‐respectability and have stood as ‘helpmates’ to the men who are at the forefront of the organization. While they have managed to subverted the power structure that defines them as inferior, and Garveyite and Rastafari woman have been able to significantly impact the movements of which they were or are a part, they have been careful to do so in ways that will not upset the tender balance of the organization thus putting the movement itself at risk. These definitive notions of manhood and womanhood, and an application of strict and conservative gender roles and hierarchy represent one of the main continuities between Garveyism and Rastafarianism. In the midst of common opinion on the necessity for self-­‐reliance, repatriation, Black Nationalism and African liberation, there exists an idea of the subordination of women as necessary to achieve these greater goals or of the full freedom of women as being unnecessary in the struggle. Obiagele Lake in her text Rastafari Women: Subordination in the Midst of Liberation Theology speaks broadly to the prevalence of gender hierarchy in African liberation movements and says that “these uneven relations [of the Rastafari] are significant as they point to men’s propensity to exclusively struggle for male power – a focus that has historically pervaded all Diaspora African movements” (Lake 1998, 3). From its inception, Marcus Garvey’s U.N.I.A, upheld traditionalist and conservatively construction notion of gender and hierarchy which defined highly gender-­‐specific roles within the organization. Men were leaders and women held largely clerical roles. Men were policy makers and executives while women were teachers and nurses. According to Barbara Bair “Women were technically granted an equal share of power based on the division of authority by gender. In practice, however the organizational pattern of men’s and women’s leadership roles was not separate and equal but separate and hierarchical. The predominant model of gender relations was similar to that of the companionate marriage, with wife/woman and husband/man cooperating while asserting authority over separate spheres of influence” (Bair 1992, 155). Like with Rastafarianism, a part of the justification for this hierarchical separation of men and women’s roles came in the form of notions of respectability and protection of women. There was also the notion that this strict assignation of gender roles aimed to work against the oppressive stripping of gender enacted by white America on African Americans. Women were de-­‐feminized and men emasculated in their inability to protect their women. Through self-­‐reliance, and the desertion of oppressive America for a African ruled Africa, black men in America and the Caribbean sought to regain a sense of ‘manhood’. Marcus Garvey spoke often of the characteristics of a ‘real man’ and advocated a return to ‘true manhood’ and manliness. In order for true manhood to exist, it must have a direct opposite, womanhood, and in order for man to be powerful, he needed someone to exert power over. A common trope of Garvey’s speeches and writings was this call for ‘manliness and manhood’. In an editorial in the Negro World newspaper he asks his readers “Have you lost anything? Yes you have lost your manhood; you have lost your sovereignty; you have lost the freedom of will. These things must be restored before we can demand the respect of the world, and these are the things that the Universal Negro Improvement Association intend to restore to the race.” (Garvey, The Negro World 1923) For Garvey, the reverence of women towards men was extremely important to the advancement of the race. Without the unquestioned respect and admiration of their women, black men could not demand respect from any other race. In an article in The Negro World, June 9, 1923, Garvey wrote: Let us go back to the days of true manhood when women truly reverenced us and without any condescension on our part, for all true women will admire and respect a real man: therefore let us again place our women upon the pedestal from whence they have been forced into the vortex of the seething world of business . . . We would have many more mothers, many more virtuous wives, many more amiable and lovable daughters if man would play his part as he should (Garvey, 1923 in Bair 1992, 156) Women were to be virtuous and feminine, untainted by business and labour and things such as these that were defined as the realm of men. It was the man’s duty to ensure that these gendered separations were upheld. The influence of this Garveyist notion of manhood and gender roles on Rastafarianism is seen clearly in Reggae music. In a song titled Virtuous Woman that has received much airplay in Jamaica and many accolades for its conscious lyrics and praise of women, Rastafarian Reggae artist Warrior King sings: 9Nuh real man can live without a woman Like night to day so is a woman to her man She's essential to his purpose and his missions A good woman is a glory to her man She will never take the power She will just make him a better man Every great man has a virtuous woman Garvey’s second wife Amy Jacques Garvey was highly adept at working within and around this idea of female respectability and virtuosity in order to advance the cause of women within the U.N.I.A. She carefully negotiated the gray area between her ‘public’ and ‘private’ roles as the wife of Marcus Garvey and as a journalist, a writer and editor for The Negro World newspaper. She presented herself to the public as the quintessential U.N.I.A. woman, a staunch supporter of Marcus Garvey, and an efficient clerical worker, unquestioningly championing 9 Warrior King, Virtuous Woman, 2002,. his goals and that of the organization. Like the Rastafari women after her who realized that they could defend their own causes working within and around the sexist organization of which they were a part, Amy Jacques Garvey recognized that her ability to forward her feminist ideals were intrinsically tied to her role as the wife of Marcus Garvey. According to Kate Dossett “Jacques Garvey was fully aware that her ability to present black feminism in a public stage was inextricably linked to her capacity to perform the helpmate for her husband both in public and in private, as and when required”. (Dossett 2008, 160). The Women’s Page in The Negro World was the main arena for her voice. Alongside the recipes and tips for housewives present on the women’s page of The Negro World, titled Our Women and What They Think, Jacques Garvey often wrote articles informing her readers about current events and advancements in fights for race and women’s liberation around the world. She upheld the Black Nationalist views espoused by her husband and passionately endorsed Garveyist philosophy of racial solidarity, self reliance, black entrepreneurship and repatriation. During her husband’s incarceration she carefully wielded power over him and the men of the U.N.I.A to ensure the lasting success of the movement beyond Garvey’s demise. Her writings on gender show that she held women in higher esteem than she did men and she was unafraid of pinpointing the shortcomings of U.N.I.A. men using their own language of ‘manhood’ and female ‘helplessness’ against them as she sought to criticize them and defend herself against their chauvinistic ideas of the rightful place of the woman. Jacques Garvey, while presenting herself as a qualified leader, was however careful never to chastise her husband and his leadership of the U.N.I.A. Though the Garveys’ marriage was not perfect and Jacques Garvey probably conceded on more than she would have wished to, she believed that “women must learn how to use and redefine the parameters of the public-­‐private spheres that men had created to control women”, (Dossett 2008, 167). And through her writing and by example she taught the readers of her Negro World columns to do just this, to use the tropes of respectability, the sexist demarcation of women’s roles and the chauvinistic requirement of women’s subordination, to work against these. Following her husband’s death, she published several texts, highlighting his work thus presenting herself as an authority on the U.N.I.A and placing herself as key to its continued success. Amy Jacques Garvey in this way ensured that even though she did not get the recognition due to her as the backbone of the U.N.I.A, she took control of the public memory of Marcus Garvey, the U.N.I.A and the movement which shouted ‘Africa for Africans’, thereby securing for herself an important place in this history and in action advancing her female power and feminist ideals. Considering the very conservative notions of gender, respectability and religion upheld by Marcus Garvey and Rastafarians, it is interesting to note that as part of the main executors of the popular memory of the Garvey movement, Rastafarians have largely failed to mention Amy Jacques Garvey. Given her role in the documentation of Marcus Garvey’s speeches and writings and the highlights of the movement; and the strides we say we’ve gained against sexism since Marcus Garvey was alive; such exclusion begs an examination of the aspects of Garveyism that we have held on to, and the level of liberation we have achieved. Although in modern times female Rastafarian Reggae artists have gained prominence, Reggae music is still a mostly male dominated genre and many of the lyrics in Reggae songs and the offspring Dancehall, remain chauvinistic and at times out-­‐rightly misogynistic. The songs that speak directly to the memory of Marcus Garvey are performed almost entirely by males. With the exception of Sinead O’Connor’s cover of Burning Spear’s Marcus Garvey, I am yet to find a reggae track about Marcus Garvey sung by a woman. While Sinead O’Connor’s performance of the track is a breaking of the mold, it in and of itself raises a series of questions. What does it mean that this white woman has the freedom to perform this song at a time when black woman do or are not? What different meanings if any would it carry coming out of the mouth of a black Rastafari woman? The mere existence of the song and worldwide popularity of the Burning Spear album, as well as Sinead O’Connor’s performance of it on the ‘Late, late show’ speaks to a certain level of popularization and commercialization of the memory and message of Marcus Garvey. The U.N.I.A’s red, black and green and Rastafari’s red, gold and green have become prominent choices for fashionable wear. Marcus Garvey’s image and word’s can be seen on T-­‐shirts worn by people worldwide. While these commemorative songs and Garvey paraphernalia are consumed by men and women alike, women are have been largely erased from the popular memorialization of the Garvey and U.N.I.A. movement and continue to be marginalized in the musical production of the memory. Aside from the gendered oppression still present within Garveyism and Rastafarianism, a speculation as to part of the reason we have not paid closer attention to the content and production of memories of the movement in popular culture, is that as time has passed, ‘Africa for Africans’, Garveyism and Marcus Garvey himself have become icons and symbols. There’s no space for the gendered complications of the relationship between Reggae, Rastafari, Garvey and the U.N.I.A. on a t-­‐shirt. A thought to ponder is does it matter? Do we need more than a one-­‐liner in a song reminding us that 10‘Marcus Garvey say fi read’ or more than Garvey’s face on a t-­‐shirt? Does it matter how we remember 11‘Old Marcus Garvey’? Have we advanced to a point of race and gender liberation that a movement so fraught with political turmoil in its heyday can become incontestable popular culture? Is this dual commercialization of Garveyism and Rastafarianism a further advancement of the messages in the music or is it a dilution? A dilution that could possibly mean that the issues of race and gender that still plague these revolutionary movements will remain unaddressed? 10 Excerpt from Damian and Stephen Marley’s The Mission, 2008,. 11 Burning Spear, Marcus Garvey / Garvey's Ghost, 1975,. Bibliography Afari, Yasus. Overstanding Rastafari: Jamaica's Gift to the World. Kingston: Senya-­‐
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