The Gallery of Memory.
Tonight I am at the launch of Shemelis Desta’s photographic exhibition From Emperor to Dictator at The Photographers Gallery in Soho just a minute from Leicester square tube station. My very cool friend Nkechi Abili who works in Mayfair scoots around the city on her v. chic vespa and parks right outside the gallery. We catch up a little and then enter the milieu.
There are many people, mainly Ethiopian, whom I say hello to that I haven’t seen for over ten years. A woman who knows my family is here and someone whispers to me that one gentlemen looking at the pictures is the grandson of the Emperor himself.
The galleryis packed and the free alcohol isflowing. I haven’t had a drink for about three months now and have decidednever to have a drink again. I would hopethat Mark Sealy is here, our paths keep crossing. Mark Sealy runs Autograph the base for the association of blackphotographers (ABP).
From theother side of the room I see Nkechi, she is waving at me to come look at apicture. It is a picture of Julies Nyerere the then president of Tanzaniatalking with the Emperor of Ethiopia Haile Selassie. Of the seven hundred pictures available forthis exhibition of approximately fifty, this one! “He used to come to myhouse” she whispers “ when I was a child. He was a friend of my father!”.
I amreminded of how long it is since my close friend saw her father. And then I amreminded of what has happened to many of these Ethiopians. These pictures arememories. Corrupting earthquakes andrevolutions have split Ethiopian families across the world. The exile couldeasily be imprisoned within memory andhere they are memories, displayed on the walls, lauded by us all. But somewherehere in this room right now someone is absolutely sobbing inside. It is bad that people are forced into exile, but to exile their ideas, their hopes, their dreams, their future their children, their arts....
....back at my home there is an invite to the Embassy for the Netherlands at The launch for Poetry Review....