My Moving Father
9.30am all four poets go to Emily Carr University of Art and Design on the Island. Here we spend the day facilitating workshops for Canadian youth. It is enjoyable and tiring and worth every second. The day ends with their performance and a good time is had by all.
I return to the hotel and my uncle Samson who builds and sells property in Seattle is waiting with a smile. I know he is tired. He has travelled up from Seattle abut one hundredand fifty miles away. The last time we met was here in 2006.It was when Something Dark, my previous play, was at the East Vancouver Arts Centre. I had invited my family to comefrom the US. The play had been touring for five years up until then and this is the first time any of them had seen it. It is the last time I would speak to or see any of my fathers family except for Samson.
There is a part of the play that they can not accept. And without seeing the actual play they cut me off. It's all got a bit Salman Rushdie. The play was partially about my search for the family. The family that I had spent my life searching for. But in hearing of it theyhad unified around one point and decided I was dead to them or something similarly dramatic. It all got a bit dark. I still have their emails of veiled threats.
My own sister, the day before the following Christmas, sent me an email informing me thatI should get a DNA test. “I have people watching you” said my brother “you should know that I know people” said an highly educated aunt. Some didn’t threaten me at all. My aunt who used to call me each Sunday from San Fransisco, simply cut me off. It wasa learning curve for me of how people in pain can twist. We, the family and I, have a shared past, the darkness of it and the light.
“So” says Samson, “I have a DVD here. Both he and his friend are in my room at thehotel. They are good people, that is not to say the others are bad. I put the DVD into my computer and it shows them all in Addis. My grandfather was a millionaire. It prides me to say so in the light of peoples generally negative standing on the people of Africa. And sothe video portrayed how the affluent lived in Ethiopia in the late 60’s. It was around the time I was born in England.
The 16mm film is pure 1960's. It is beautiful and rare archive of weddings and family celebrations of hip and happening Addis Abbaba before war would ravage the country and split neighbour from neighbour. A time before all these children (my uncles and aunts) would leave for university never to return. "There he is" shouts Samson "there". I press pause. And it's true, there he is, my father, taking off his sunglasses, smiling at the camera. Shit he looks like me. It is the first time I have seen a moving picture of him. The first time I have ever seen him move. I press pause and return. I press pause and return. I press pause and return. I press pause and return.