Scenes of Ethiopia come to Bath in new photography exhibition

Issue date: 20 January 2015

Gallery of photos from the exhibition opening.

A striking new view of Ethiopia is coming to the city of Bath, thanks to an exhibition of photographs being held at Fairfield House, in Kelston Road, Newbridge. Fairfield House is the former residence of Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia.

The 'Roots' exhibition, which is the first UK showing for Ethiopian photographer Addishiwot Asfawosen Zeleke, is a fascinating series of portrait, documentary and landscape photographs from diverse regions of Ethiopia, presenting an intimate look into the lifestyle and culture of her homeland. It has been curated by Dr Shawn Sobers, Senior Lecturer of Photography at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol).

To capture scenes for the show Addishiwot traveled to regions in Ethiopia such as Arba Minch, Addis Abeba, Gonder, Bahir Dare, Awassa, Shashemene, Wondo Genet, Axum and Lalibela.

She said, “The reason for focusing on these counties is to demonstrate the life style and culture and the awareness that they all have and share with one another to make Ethiopia a beautiful place for anyone to come and reside there.”

The exhibition starts on the walls of the stairs in Fairfield House and leads up to the gallery and museum rooms upstairs, called the Tafari Gallery. Fairfield House has global significance as the former residence of Haile Selassie, who is treated as a deity by the Rastafarian community, and is a leader of significant importance to Ethiopian communities and those interested in historical global politics. The Friends of Fairfield House have set up a committee to save the house as a site of historical importance for the city, and also for it to continue to be used as a day centre for the Bath Ethnic Minority Senior Citizens Association (BEMSCA). The Tafari Gallery will host three exhibitions a year, from local, national and international artists, with themes relating to the history and significance of the house.

Dr Shawn Sobers, who is curator for the Tafari Gallery said, “I think it's an important exhibition to hold here in Fairfield House, and for the city. Emperor Haile Selassie was given the Freedom of the City of Bath, so to bring photography of Ethiopia here, made by an Ethiopian born photographer, is vitally important, as it is part of the historical contract that this building has with the city and the country that gave this building its global significance. The photographs are fantastic and they are perfect for the space here.

“My research and practice over the past 16 years has explored the history and legacy of Fairfield House from multiple perspectives, and my research will now consist of curating the gallery space as an action research intervention. Over the past two years UWE students on internships from the HistoryBA have played an important role in building the narrative of Fairfield House through oral history projects, particularly Kayley Porter who has continued to work with the house two years after she graduated. Art and Design students will now have an opportunity to work with the Tafari Gallery, gaining valuable experience in curating, arts promotion, and working with professional exhibiting artists.”

The exhibition opened on January 7, when Ethiopian Christmas is celebrated, at an event featuring Ethiopian singing, prayers, Rastafarian drumming and chanting, with traditional Ethiopian foods being served. The exhibition will continue until 1 May.

More information can be found at the Fairfield House website.

Photos of exhibition opening: Sandra Harper

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