Farika Berhane was born in Kingston, Jamaica and attended Alpha Academy for Girls, a Catholic High School. Known then as Norma Hamilton, she was a journalist at The Gleaner, Jamaica’s national newspaper company, editor of the Pan African Secretariat’s Pan African Digest, and public relations officer at the Jamaica Information Service (JIS). She also worked in Jamaica’s literacy program and organized her own adult literacy classes for sanitation workers. A prolific playwright, she was one of the authors of the very popular Jamaica Broadcasting Company (JBC) radio drama, “Life in Hopeful Village” heard in the 1960s and 1970s in Jamaica. She is the screen stage writer of “Life With the Littles”, the first TV sitcom locally written and produced in Jamaica in the 1970s.
Farika Berhane helped pioneer the Jamaican patois as an acceptable form of Jamaican literature in continuation of “Miss Lou” - Mrs. Louise Bennett's work, who was her mentor. Another mentor was Mrs. Amy Jacques Garvey, wife of the Right Excellent Marcus Garvey. Both women were family friends when Farika was growing up in Kingston, Jamaica.
Nana Farika's groundbreaking novella, "The Story of Sandra Shaw,"written mostly in patois, is cited by distinguished Professor of Literature and History, Dr. Kamau Brathwaite as being,"at the heart of the cultural revolution in literary expression taking place in the seventies in Jamaica and the Caribbean." It was a novella of growing up a girl in Jamaica at the crossroads of Colonial Jamaica and Independent Jamaica and is the first published female-centered literary writing in Jamaica.
Farika is known for her great poetry and writings culminating with her famous book “Sing I a Song of Black Freedom," a collection of poetry that has become part of the Pan African movement literary forte also "Call I Sista Love: The crowning of the mother and the birth of the daughter" her 2008 publication and first volume in a series on Rastafarian women.
A former school teacher of the language arts and recipient of many awards for her short stories, plays and poems written completely in Jamaican dialect, her short story "Brother Ben," was a prize winner in an international Black writers short fiction contest, sponsored by Flamingo
Magazine in London. The story was adapted for the stage in Lambeth, England and had a successful run with the mayor of Lambeth attending on opening night. Her play "These people never learn," won first prize in the play writing section of Jamaica's annual Festival of cultural arts. Her short fiction was published in Jamaica, London and USA.
Her poetry is the voice of the Jamaican underclass and her journalistic training was allowed her to work with the Abeng newspaper for social change, and Ras Historian's grassroots publication, “Rasta Voice." While in California Nana Farika worked with, the Nairobi Institute of Cultural Arts, a performing ensemble, California Poets in the Schools, funded by the California Arts Council, the US Department of Education, and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and Stanford University.
In 1974, she attended the 6th Pan African Congress in Tanzania as a delegate of the Pan African Secretariat, Jamaica. She was the only woman from the Caribbean and the only Rastafari to attend. She is now the sole survivor of that historic delegation.
She organized and directed the first international Rastafari Women's conference at Howard
University in 2003 with the support of the university's Moorland Springarn Research Center and the drama department. It was Sister Farika that introduced the Smithsonian to the Rastafari in Washington DC in order to facilitate a joint project to bring the culture's elders to the
USA in 1988 and was a consultant on the Smithsonian's Exhibition on Rastafari culture. In 1992, she was recognized and awarded a certificate of appreciation by the Smithsonian Institution for her work in coordinating the Jamaican leg of its quincentenary program on Maroon culture.
A recipient of numerous awards from Rastafari woman groups for her work on their behalf as well as from Pan African leaders, she received the keys of the city of Cambridge, Massachusetts on behalf of the Maroon people and was offered grants from the DC government's art agency for her work with children.