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Jah Rastafari

Ras Benji's Historical Oracle

St. George

Each Christian nation has its own ‘Patron Saint’ who in times of great peril is called upon to help protect a country from its enemies.

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Ethiopian Icon of St George slaying the Dragon

St George is the patron saint of both Ethiopia, England and is traditionally revered in many other countries including Armenia, Georgia, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Egypt, Germany, Greece, India, Italy, Lebanon, Lithuania, Malta, Montenegro, Palestine, Portugal, Russia, Serbia, Spain, Syria and the Ukraine.

In this blog article I aim to outline a brief history of St George and bring forth some reasoning as to why he is so revered in some places, intertwined deeply with the identity of others and has been very important to the monarchies and church of both Ethiopia and England.

Who was Saint George?

St George is recorded as living his life in the region that is today described as the middle east (Turkey, Lydda, Syria region) known geographically as North East of Africa and previously described on European world maps as Arabia, part of Asia. Born around 280 Ad and Died on the 23rd of April 303 in the gregorian Calendar and the 6th of May in the Julian Calender. The 23rd of April, here in the Uk has traditionally been a day associated with patriotism, the St George Cross being both the symbol of the flag of England (and part of the Great British Union Jack) and also featured on the crest of the City of London.

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St George is the Patron Saint of England, many people think he is the benchmark of all things English, but mostly they are unaware of his origin.

Although he was born in Palestina / Turkey / Syria region, legend tells us that George was a child of Greek parents but interestingly within the oldest paintings of the Orthodox Church of Greece he is depicted as an African or Aethiopian as he would have been known at the time in Greece.

St George of lydda is most popularly known for slaying the Dragon and we are also told according to legend that his occupation was a Roman soldier and officer in the Guard of Roman emperor Diocletian, who ordered his death by Rome for failing to recant his Christian faith. As a Christian martyr, he later became one of the most venerated saints in Christianity.

In Ethiopia

Through the coptic church of Alexendria and Egypt, the matrydom of St George would have been a well known legend early in the history of the Ethiopian Christian tradition and evidence of this is seen in the northern town of Lalibela.

A major place of spiritual importance and a pilgrimage destination for Christians to this day. Lalibela is home to a breathtaking network of eleven rock hewn churches. A place i have been blessed to visit myself in person for the 1st time in 2016 (Some photos from our trip below). One of the most prominent churches is known in amharic as Bete Giyorgis, the Church of St George and we were shown hoove marks in one of the passage ways said to have been left by the horse of St George after he visited mystically whilst the building was in progress.

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The hoof marks left by the horse of St George after he visited King Lalibela during the construction of the Rock Hewn Churches

”According to Ethiopian cultural history, Bete Giyorgis was built because of a vision experienced by King Gebre Mesqel Lalibela of the Zagwe Dynasty (a poorly documented period, one of the most obscure in Ethiopian history, which extended from 1137 to 1270). St George and God are said to have appeared to the King and given instructions to sculpt the church, which seems to have been the last of the churches created on the site, it stands slightly apart from the main complex of ten churches, and is connected to them by a system of trenches. ”

St George : A Saint for All – Samantha Riches

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Bete Giyorgis, Holy Church of Saint George, Lalibela

When pondering the patron saints, St George feels somewhat naturally coupled with Ethiopia, the independent Africa nation has the longest history of defeating invading forces and with this St George is often depicted with the enemy being defeated akin to the dragon. In 1896 Emperor Menelik’s forces defeated the first wave of colonial ambition from Italy and this was repeated when Emperor Haile Selassie was restored to his throne in 1941, overcoming five years of illegal Italian occupation. Both these victories were congruent with what would have been a well known historical precedent as in 1632 under Emperor Fasilides, Christian and Muslim forces had unified to fight and remove the Roman Catholic Portuguese previously in Ethiopia to help in a Christian/Islamic battle but having vastly overstayed their welcome.

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Ethiopian Painting from the British Mueseum, depicting Saint George protecting the Holy Tabot of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church

In Addis Ababa, the historic St Georges Cathedral was commissioned by Emperor Menelik II after the battle of Adwa in 1896. Paintings and murals inside depict the coronations of Ethiopian Emperors, the martyr St George himself and moments of the nation’s victory over adversity, the fight against colonialism for both Emperor Menelik and Emperor Haile Selassie I.

Empress Zewditu of Ethiopia was crowned at this Cathedral in 1917, and Emperor Haile Selassie was famously crowned there in 1930.

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A man praying against the wall of St Georges Cathedral in Addis Ababa, February 2016

Ethiopia has her own ”Order of St George”, a special award and highest honor for outstanding military achievement and service to Ethiopia. Similar to this, during World War 2 King George V1 of England established the St George Cross for outstanding acts of Valour during the War.

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St George is also the name for arguably the most popular beer in Ethiopia, St George Brewery being founded in Addis Ababa by a Belgian living in the city under the rule of Emperor Menelik and Empress Taitu. It was next ran by german owners before eventually transferring to Ethiopian state ownership in the 1950s.

Ethiopia has close relations to St George and the legend of him defeating the dragon and the symbolism with the battle of victory of good against evil still resonates today. However, George patron saint of England seems to make little sense to people today, especially in comparison to Ireland with St Patrick, known in legend to have rid Ireland of snakes (or ”Pagan” people with their diverse spiritual practices as it is most likely to have meant).

In a newspaper published in the past week for St Georges day, I read this statement:

”Unlike Ireland and St Patrick, who is said to have converted the emerald Isle to Christianity, St George has no obvious connection to England. ‘

Or does he? For me, in this situation and many others, studying Ethiopian history and the life work of Emperor Haile Selassie has acted as a perfect looking glass or even a ”Rosetta Stone” for understanding the modern geo-political world situtation and the deeply rooted religious symbolism intertwined with our every day in the monuments / buildings we walk past or national celebrations some may observe.

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In order to understand it deeper, we have to look to the history of the Roman Empire, the settlement in England that survived the fall of Old Rome itself and the shared symbolic representation of St George between England and the City of London in the person of St George. I recommend these videos for a quick overview of the complex history of the Secret city of London and a familiarization of the structure, roots and symbols.

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The City of London

Considering the connections of the City of London (or Londinium) to the Roman Empire, it now seems appropriate that St George would be patron saint, especially as this ”city within a city” survives with powerful influence today, (embracing St george after it switched under Emperor Constantine to Christianity from paganism with the rest of the Roman Empire). The city was never properly conquered by the Indigenous people of Britain, as would have been dreamt of by the likes of Boudica of the Iceni tribe and many others fighting fiercely against Roman occupation and attempting to attack Londinium earlier in Britains history.

England

The original patron saint of England was St Edmund, but his influence was diminished when Richard the Lionheart (1157 – 1199) adopted St George as the protector of his army whilst acknowledging the popularity of St George on one of his crusades . The fame of Saint George at this time had been widespread over the East, and the Crusaders brought their devotion for the warrior Saint back to Europe.

St Edmund was finally replaced when King Edward III formed the Order of the Garter in St. George’s name in 1350 and made him the Patron Saint of England.

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Full page portraits of Edward III (Founder of the Order of the Garter) and Henry, Duke of Lancaster, of the Order of the Garter, each wearing a blue Garter mantle over plate armour and surcoat displaying his arms. A framed tablet displays painted arms of successors in their Garter stalls at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor. (http://realhistoryww.com/world_history/ancient/Misc/Crests/Order_of_the_garter.htm)

The Order of the Garter is Britain’s highest order of Chivalry awarded by the Monarch to fellow Knights of the realm but it also has been used with the functional tradition of honouring fellow international monarchs.

”Chivalry, or the chivalric code, is a code of conduct associated with the medieval institution of knighthood which developed between 1170 and 1220. The ideals of chivalry were popularized in medieval literature, particularly in Britain and France.” Wikipedia

African Origins

Interestingly Chivalry, and in particular Knighthood of this kind can be traced back to an invention of the Moors of North Africa, as was highlighted in the 19th Century by french literary historian Emile Theodore Leon Gautier. Also both Edward III and his son Prince Edward ”The Black Prince” have been rumored as part of the hidden history of Britain to have been of African “Moor” heritage themselves. The oldest portraits from the Garter Book of 1430 and who the artist may have been painting are fascinating to examine from this perspective.

http://realhistoryww.com/world_history/ancient/Misc/Crests/Order_of_the_garter.htm

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Full page portraits of Sir Sanset Dabrichecourt and Prince Edward ”The Black Prince” of Woodstock on the right (Son of Edward III – Left in the above portrait), of the Order of the Garter, each wearing a blue Garter mantle over plate armour and surcoat displaying his arms. A framed tablet displays painted arms of successors in their Garter stalls at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor

Guatier also summarised the customs and practice of Chivalry compiling them into a ”Ten Commandments” in 1883 so people could understand the historic principle and code of practice of chivalry.

Gautier’s Ten Commandments of chivalry are:

  1. Thou shalt believe all that the Church teaches and thou shalt observe its directions.
  2. Thou shalt defend the Church.
  3. Thou shalt respect all weaknesses, and shalt constitute thyself the defender of them.
  4. Thou shalt love the country in which thou wast born.
  5. Thou shalt not recoil before thine enemy.
  6. Thou shalt make war against the infidel without cessation and without mercy.
  7. Thou shalt perform scrupulously thy feudal duties, if they be not contrary to the laws of God.
  8. Thou shalt never lie, and shalt remain faithful to thy pledged word.
  9. Thou shalt be generous, and give largesse to everyone.
  10. Thou shalt be everywhere and always the champion of the Right and the Good against Injustice and Evil.

The Stranger Knight of St George

Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia was honoured with the special accolade of stranger knight into the St Georges Order of the Garter in 1954. Receiving awards of this kind were of course not uncommon for His Imperial Majesty, who was frequently being recognised with prestigious awards from universities, governments / fellow monarchies of the world and he is even recorded in the Guiness Book of World Records as having had the ”Most Bemeddalled Chest on Record”.

The awards from the Order of the Garter are always made on St Georges day with the adornments and symbols of St George. The accolade of stranger knight and awards of this kind had traditionally been used by monarchs between Christian nations especially as a way of acquiring political allies. His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie was well known for expertly maneuvering Western Governments to acheive the progress he wanted in Africa and this could have been Britain’s attempt at winning back favour with the deeply Orthodox Christian Emperor through an acknowledgement of each nation’s shared love for Saint George .

His Majesty was openly very suspicious of the intentions of Britain in East Africa, hastily and persistently working (with great help from Sylvia Pankhurst) to usher out Britain from any kind of attempted influence in governmental affairs after returning to the throne in 1941, this was achieved completely in 1954 when Ethiopia was restored to its internationally recognised borders of 1935, prior to illegal Italian occupation.

See https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anglo-Ethiopian_Agreement for more information and also the book by the late Dr Richard Pankhurst : Sylvia Pankhurst Council for Ethiopia. Chapter 11 Also: Slyvia Pankhurst: Opinions of the Emperor

See below Video for further information with regards to the Order of the Garter and the meaning of a ”Stranger Knight” from a Russian Monarchical perspective.

To this day, His Imperial Majesty has an intricately crafted stall plate in St Georges Chapel in Windsor Castle depicting both the Imperial Crest of the Solomonic Throne, the Symbol of the Lion of Judah, the Imperial Crown of Ethiopia and the motto of the order of the garter -.Honi soit qui mal y pense  “May he be shamed who thinks badly of it”.

Here is a list of some of the Accolades and Foreign Awards of His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia :

Ethiopia

1917 Grand Cordon, The Most Exalted Order of the Queen of Sheba                                 1930 Knight, The Imperial Order of Solomon:
1930 Knight Grand Cross, The Imperial Order of the Holy Trinity
1924 Knight Grand Cross, Order of Emperor Menelik II
1924 Negus (Knight Grand Cross), The Imperial Order of the Star of Ethiopia
1923 Military Medal of Merit of the Order of St.George with 3 Palms
1936 Distinguished Military Medal of Haile Selassie I, with 3 Palms
1936 Medal for Military Merit in gold                                                                                         1936 Tigre Expedition Medal in silver, awarded 2 times (2 Palms)
1944 Medal for Patriotism with 5 Palms
1941 “Dil-Kokeb” The Star of Victory 1941
1953 Eritrean Medal of Haile Selassie I
1941 Medal for Underground Patriotism 1941 with 5 Palms
1930 Coronation Medal of Emperor Haile Selassie I, 1930
1955 Imperial Jubilee Coronation Medal
1944 The Refugee’s Medal (for war exiles) with 5 palms
1957 Restoration Medal
1959 “Memihiran” Scholarship Medal (also known as Teachers Medal)
1951 Commemorative Medal for the Korean War
1966 25th Anniversaire Medal of the Victory of 1941

Worldwide

1917 U.K. G.C.M.G. (Knight Grand Cross, The Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael & St. George)
1917 Italy, Grand Cross Order of the Crown of Italy (Returned 1936)
1918 France, Grand Officer, Legion of Honour
1924 Egypt, Grand Cordon, Royal Order of Mohammed Ali
1924 France, Grand Croix, Legion of Honour
1924 Italy, Grand Cross Order of St .Maurice & St. Lazarus (Returned 1936)
1924 Belgium, Grand Cross Order of Leopold (Military Division)
1924 Luxemburg, Knight, Order of the Golden Lion of Nassau
1924 Sweden, Knight, Order of Seraphim
1924 U.K. G.C.B., (Knight Grand Cross, Most Honourable Order of the Bath)
1924 Portugal, Grand Cross Military Order of Aviz
1924 Greece, Grand Cross Royal Order of the Redeemer
1925 Portugal, Grand Cross Military Order of the Tower & Sword
1928 Italy, Knight, Supreme Order of the Annunciation (Returned 1936)
1930 Egypt, Collar, Royal Order of Mohammed Ali
1930 Netherlands, Grand Cross Civil Order of Merit of the Netherlands Lion
1930 Poland, Grand Cross Order of Polonia Restituta
1930 Japan, Grand Commander, Supreme Order of the Chrysanthemum
1930 U.K. G.C.V.O. (Knight Grand Cross, Royal Victorian Order)
1930 U.K. The Royal Victorian Chain
1945 USA, Chief Commander, Legion of Merit
1945 Norway Grand Cross with Collar, Order of St. Olav
1949 Finland, Grand Cross with Collar, Order of the White Rose
1949 Portugal, Ribband of the Three Orders
1949 Spain, Grand Cross with Collar, Distinguished Order of Charles III
1950 Lebanon, Superior Class, The Merit Decoration
1950 Syria, Grand Cordon, Order of Omayyadh
1950 Jordan, Grand Commander, Order of Hussein Ibn Ali (no Sash ?)
1950 Iraq, Grand Cordon with Collar, Order of the Hashemites
1953 U.K. Coronation Medal 1953
1954 Mexico, Grand Collar, Order of the Aztec Eagle
21.7.1954 Yugoslavia, The Yugoslav Grand Star
1954 Czechoslovakia, 1st Class with Collar, Order of the White Lion (Military Division)
1954 Austria, Grand Decoration of Honour in Gold with Sash, Decoration of Honour for Merit
1954 Germany, Gran Cross Special Class, Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany
1954″Great Chief Buffalo”, with the honor & rank of Chief of the Pawnee Native American Indian tribe.
1954 France, Croix de Guerre with Palm (War Cross)
1954 France, Medaille Militaire (Military Medal)
1954 U.K., K.G. (Knight, Noble Order of the Garter) (No Sash or Ribbon)
1954 Netherlands, Grand Cross Military Order of Willem (William)
1954 Denmark, Knight, Order of the Elephant
1954 Sweden, Collar, Order of Seraphim (no Sash)
1955 Italy, Grand Cross with Collar, Order of Merit of the Italian Republic
1956 Libya, Grand Collar, Royal Order of Idris I
1956 Japan, Collar, Supreme Order of the Chrysanthemum
1956 Republic of Korea (South Korea), 1st Class, Order of National Foundation
1958 Brazil, GC with Collar, Order of the Southern Cross
1958 Pakistan, 2nd Class, Order of Pakistan (Hilal-i-Pakistan)
1958 Burma Grand Commander, Agha Maha Thudhamma
1958 Thailand, Knight, Most Illustrious Order of the Royal House of Chakri
1958 Malaysia, Grand Knight, Most Exalted Order of the National Crown
1958 Indonesia, 1st Class, Bintang Republik Indonesia
1958 Vietnam 1st Class, National Order of Vietnam
1958 Philippines, Raja, Ancient Order of Sikatuna
1960 Somalia, Grand Cordon, Order of the Somali Star
1963 Togo, Grand Commander, Order of Mono
1963 Upper Volta, Grand Cordon, National Order of Upper Volta
1963 Ivory Coast, Grand Cross National Order of Cote d?Ivoire
1963 Liberia, Knight Grand Band, Order of the Pioneers of the Republic
1963 Senegal, Grand Cross Order of the Lion
1963 Mali, Grand Cross with Collar, National Order of Merit
1963 Niger, Grand Cross National Order of Niger
1963 Chad, Grand Cross National Order of Merit
1963 Nigeria, Grand Commander, Order of the Federal Republic
1964 Hungary, 1st Class with Diamonds, Order of the Banner of the P.R. of Hungary (no Ribbon)
1964 Tunisia, Grand Collar, Order of Independence
1962 Morocco, Grand Collar, Order of Mohammed (no Ribbon)
1964 Buganda, Commander, Order of the Shield & Spears of Buganda Kingdom
1964 Iran, Collar, Pahlevi Order of Iran
1965/66 Dahomey, CC National Order of Dahomey
1965/66 Cambodia, Grand Collar, Order of Independence
1966 Haiti, Grand Cross Order of Honour & Merit
1966 Venezuela Grand Cross with Collar, The Order of the Bust of the Liberator Simon Bolivar
1966 Bolivia, Grand Cross National Order of the Condor of the Andes
1966 Peru, Grand Cross Order of the Peruvian Sun
1966 Chile, Grand Cross with Collar, Order of Merit
1966 Kenya, Grand Chief, Order of the Golden Heart
1967 Iran, Coronation Medal of the Shah of Iran 1967
1968 Zaire, Grand Cross with Collar, Order of the Leopard
1968 Burundi, Grand Cross Order of the Republic
1968 Malawi, Grand Cross Order of the Lion
1968 Zambia, Grand Commander, Order of the Eagle of Zambia
1968 Malagasy Republic, Grand Commander, National Order of the Malagasy Republic
1968/70 Central African Republic, Grand Cross Order of Merit of Central Africa
1968/70 Congo, Grand Cross National Order of Congolese Merit
1968/70 Gabon, Grand Commander, Order of the Equatorial Star
1968/70 Cameroun, Grand Cross Order of Valour
1968/70 Mauritania, Grand Cordon, National Order of Mauritania
1968/70 Guinea, Grand Cordon, National Order of Guinea
1970 Sudan, The Insignia of Honour
1970 Vatican State, Knight Grand Cross, Order of Pius IX
1970 Ghana, 1st Class, Order of the Star
1970 Argentina Grand Cross Order of San Martin
1970 Iraq 1st Class, Order of Ar-Rafidan (Military Division)
1971 Iran, 2500 Anniversaire Medal of the Foundation of the Persian Monarchy
1971 Saudi Arabia, Grand Cordon, Order of King Abdul Aziz
1972 Uganda, Grand Commander, Order of the Source of the Nile

 

In the spirit of St George on this St Georges day (just passed in the gregorian calender and soon approaching us in the Julian Calender) may we all find strength to slay our Dragons and let the legendary defiance of the likes of St George, Iyseus Kristos, Hannibal Barca, King Menelik II, Empress Taitu, Emperor Haile Selassie I and many others against the destructive ideals of ancient/modern Rome keep inspiring us today.

Truth + Rights

Ras Benji 2017

http://wp.me/p8hNGd-gr

Soul Rebel : Sylvia Pankhurst

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With a special interest in the lessons we can learn from history, I am always on the lookout for geographical locations of particular historical significance which we cross paths with in our everyday lives.

I found myself feeling extremely happy and thankful whilst journeying through London a few weeks ago when, stuck in traffic at a particular moment i turned to my left and saw a blue house with a blue plaque, the plaque being an indication here in the UK that the property was once residence to someone deemed significant by English Heritage Trust.

Finding blue plaques in London is not unusual but in this one mystic moment i felt as though I had been destined to find this one and it should serve as my motivation to share my deep appreciation for the former occupant. The house, number 120 Cheyne Walk on the River Thames in West London, was once home to the great suffragette Women’s rights campaigner and an Official Honorary Ethiopian, Sylvia Pankhurst.

Sylvia Pankhurst, instrumental in the victory and fight for Women’s right to vote, also became a constant thorn in the side of the British Empire, and was so well known and politically adept in the 20th century that she was attacked by figures such as Lenin and Mussolini who felt the need to denounce her publications and ideology.

Sylvia was born on the 5th of May 1882, daughter of women’s rights and Indian independence campaigner Richard Pankhurst and suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst. She trained as an artist and moved to London from Manchester after winning a scholarship at the Royal College of Art in South Kensington. After finishing university she used her artistic skills working full time campaigning for the Women’s social and political union with her mother and sister, writing many articles for the WSPU newspaper and publishing the ” History of the Women’s militant suffrage movement.” in 1911.

Sylvia Pankhurst

In 1914 she left the Women’s social and Political Union, having political disagreements with the direction they were taking and wanting to address and change wider issues affecting society alongside her life work in rights for Women. She set up the East London Federation of Suffragettes (ELFS), which over the years evolved politically to the Women’s Suffrage Federation and then to the Workers’ Socialist Federation. Here, Sylvia founded the newspaper of the WSF, Women’s Dreadnought, which evolved to become the Workers’ Dreadnought. At this time her main cause was organising and informing the public at the outbreak of the 1st World war.

Although they agreed in principle with regards to women establishing and exercising a right to vote, the differences in ideology of her mother and sister with Sylvia were stark when war was declared as both Emmeline and Christabell Pankhurst suspended campaigning for their Women’s Social and Political Union and embraced nationalism and War recruitment, even handing out “white feathers” to shame the men who had not volunteered to fight in the “Great War”. Sylvia opposed the war.

In September 1914, barely a month after the outbreak of war, Sylvia wrote,

“When first I read in the press that Mrs Pankhurst [her mother Emmeline] and Christabel were returning to England for a recruiting campaign I wept. To me this seemed a tragic betrayal of the great movement to bring the mother-half of the race into the councils of the nations.”

She was imprisoned many times (and beaten / tortured during her food strike protests)  over militant action demanding votes for women, her East London Federation of Suffragettes was a small yet genuinely grassroots organisation of working-class women and set up “cost-price” restaurants to feed the hungry without the taint of charity. They also established a toy factory to give work to women who had become unemployed because of the war and campaigned for the rights of soldiers’ wives.

Later from 1917 – 1920, interested in left ”Council” communism Sylvia secretly (in disguise, without a passport) journeyed on foot for long distances across Europe to see revolutionary russia, she reasoned and had disagreements with Lenin and he even published a book denouncing her for leftist idealism. The book was called Left Wing Communism, An Infantile disorder.

As a result of her wide travels and curiosity for social systems affecting others elsewhere, Sylvia developed a greater interest in international affairs than many of her peers. Near the end of the 1st world war she began living with an Italian anarchist and anti fascist Silvio Corio, who she later had a child with, that child being the great academic Richard Pankhurst, former teacher at Addis Ababa University and founder of Ethiopian studies.

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With the rise of fascism, Sylvia had observed that the movement in Italy was largely financed by banks and large business in order to operate in their interest. This was at a time when not only the British ruling class but many on the Left saw Mussolini as a positive development. She began to apply her socialism to a broader analysis of fascism and to develop a strong critique of British Imperialism. In 1926 she traveled to India and wrote a book revealing the brutality of the British occupation.

” India and the Earthly Paradise. ”

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Her anti-racist, anti-fascist and anti-colonialist stand left Sylvia with few political allies but by 1930 the realities of fascism were beginning to be appreciated and she spearheaded the formation of the Women’s Committee Against War & Fascism, the Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom and the International Peace Crusade.

Sylvia Pankhurst became involved with the cause of Ethiopia in response to the actions of fascist Italy in beginning to invade the country from 1934, she was outraged at plans of a European power to colonize the Independent African Nation and after meeting with H.I.M Haile Selassie’s Ethiopian representative Dr Charles Martin she formally joined the fight on behalf of the ”underdog” .

In 1936 she started the New Times and Ethiopia News and provided an outlet for anti-colonialist and African writers as well as exposing Italian massacres in Ethiopia. She also campaigned against aerial bombing on the grounds that it represented the deliberate targeting of innocent people. Her experience of Ethiopia, and British ‘neutrality’, also enabled her to campaign against the fascists in Spain. She was among the large crowd to greet the Emperor at Waterloo station in June of 1936 as he arrived in London and later went on to live at Fairfield House during the period of Ethiopian distress.

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”Although she was no fan of any system of monarchy, this did not seem to matter as far as the Ethiopian King of Kings was concerned, she supposedly told him straight away that, as a republican, she supported him not because he was an Emperor, but because she believed in his cause, the cause of Ethiopia.”

She spoke of him as ”a special man of destiny, elect of God, Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, King of Zion, King of Kings, Emperor of Ethiopia, chevalier sans peur et reproche (a knight without fear and reproach) and the epitome of true nobility and the soul resistance to Mussolini.”

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(Speaking of H.I.M Emperor Haile Selassie I )

”In his eyes burned the quenchless fire of a hero that never failed his cause, One sees in his build and bearing those features full of meaning, the worker who toils unceasingly for the public weal, untouched by personal ambition or material desire for wealth or safety. ”

”Above all, to her (Sylvia Pankhurst) he (Haile Selassie) was a living symbol of international justice.”

Quotations from the book, Imperial Exile – Keith Bowers

In 1956, encouraged by Emperor Haile Selassie to aid with Women’s development, Sylvia and her son Richard went to live in Ethiopia. During the Second World War Sylvia had campaigned to expose war crimes in Ethiopia and when she visited in 1944 she observed that although ‘liberated’ by the British they now were revealing desires of colonial occupation.

On one visit to Ethiopia, ”She went by way of Asmara, in Eritrea, then under British Military Occupation, where she was warmly welcomed by members of the Unionist Party, then struggling for union with Ethiopia. She also spoke from the floor at a public meeting in Asmara – where her support for the cause won considerable applause from Eritreans in the audience – but some opprobrium from members of the British administration.

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On finally reaching Ethiopia she met many Ethiopians whom she had known during their exile in Britain, and broadcast on Addis Ababa Radio. She also visited schools and historic sites which she later described in New Times and Ethiopia News. During a second visit to Ethiopia in 1950-51, she inspected many more institutions and antiquities, and collected material which she later included in Ethiopia: A Cultural History. Returning by way of Asmara she saw, and later described, the slums of its so-called ‘native quarter‘, a creation of the strict Fascist policy of racial segregation. At this time she also learnt that the British administration had been dismantling many port installations – causing her to denounce this in a pamphlet entitled ‘Why are we destroying the Eritrean ports?’ This work incensed British officialdom, already nettled by her unwavering support for Ethiopian independence, and caused one prominent British Foreign Office official to recommend that she should in future be discouraged from travelling to Ethiopia by way of Eritrea – which was later federated with Ethiopia by the United Nations in 1952. ”

Quotation from SylviaPankhurst.com – Rita Pankhurst

Sylvia campaigned for liberation throughout Africa, prompting a Foreign Office official to comment in 1947 that ‘we agree with you in your evident wish that this horrible old harridan should be choked to death with her own pamphlets’. It was also reported that in 1948 the British Government considered strategies for “muzzling the tiresome Miss Sylvia Pankhurst”.

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Whilst in Africa she raised funds for Ethiopia’s first teaching hospital and turned her attentions once again to improving conditions for mothers and babies, helped to open a specialist women’s hospital and wrote extensively on Ethiopian art and culture, carrying out research that was published in her book Ethiopia: A Cultural History (London: Lalibela House, 1955).

After the post-war liberation of Ethiopia she became a strong supporter of union between Ethiopia and the former Italian Somaliland.

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” As an anti-colonialist, and anti-racist, she was keenly interested in the African struggle for independence then being waged in many parts of the Continent, and had already published pro-independence articles in New Times and Ethiopia News. She visited Kenya in 1958, when the then Ethiopian Consul, Berhanu Tessema (a former Ethiopian refugee with whom she had corresponded during the Italian occupation), arranged for her to meet the African Trade Union leader, Tom Mboya and the African and Asian members of the Legislative Council. Jomo Kenyatta, who had spoken at her pro-Ethiopian meetings in London, was then in detention. The Mau Mau rebellion had only recently been crushed, and the Council members told her of the restrictions under which they were then labouring. She later devoted an issue of Ethiopia Observer to Kenyan affairs.

Sylvia also made contact with students from other parts of Africa who were studying at Ethiopian higher education institutions on special scholarships from the Emperor, and, once again combining wider political issues with consideration of the needs of individuals, on several occasions, introduced to him African refugees in difficulties. ”

Quotation from SylviaPankhurst.com – Rita Pankhurst

On her death in 1960 age 78, she was given an Ethiopian state funeral during the Celebration of Feast of Meskel (finding of the true cross) and was buried in the grounds of Holy Trinity Cathedral in Addis Ababa, a place reserved for national heroes, it is said the Emperor stood for the many of hours of her funeral service, paying respect for his great friend  ”Honorary Ethiopian”, Wonderful human being – Sylvia Pankhurst.

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In a world where young people especially are force fed a multitude of meaningless role models such as Beyonce and Kim Kardashian etc, we must not forget to draw inspiration and shine light on the now unsung heroes of yesterday, Real Revolutionaries , time and history is revealing their unshakable and unparalleled greatness more and more each day.

With the spirit of protest and the power of an unrelenting voice, always proud to speak truth and rights against injustice, Long may we all remember, Sylvia Pankhurst : Soul Rebel : Freedom Fighter.

British Suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst

Thankyou for taking the time to read my blog, if you have enjoyed the information found here, please remember that knowledge gained and not shared is knowledge lost… so please tell people about the greatness of Honorary Ethiopian – Sylvia Pankhurst and feel free to share the link to this page. 

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Jah Love

Ras Benji 2017

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“Jackie”: The true story of First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, JFK and Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia that Hollywood will not show you.

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In the midst of Presidential fever, the Hollywood feature film Jackie, soon to be released, is set to tell the story of the assassination of President John F Kennedy and the aftermath of this event, from the perspective of First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy.

“Jackie” tells the story of the first lady fighting “through grief and trauma to regain her faith, console her children, and define her husband’s historic legacy.”

Knowing that President John F Kennedy and Emperor Haile Selassie I had a very close relationship and the Emperor was a special guest of honour at the funeral of JFK, I set off to find out if His Majesty would be depicted at all in this feature film and explore the history of Haile Selassie in cinema.

Scenes of the funeral in the trailer did not give us a glimpse of a depiction of the Emperor. However, searching further I found the His Imperial Majesty is supposedly depicted in the film, appearing in an uncredited role, played by an actor / extra called Kelsey Saunders.

This uncredited role means it is unlikely the true story and importance of Emperor Haile Selassie I ‘s attendance at the funeral will be told in this film, especially from the perspective of “Jackie” Kennedy.

History

In October 1963 Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia made a return visit to the United States, meeting President John F. Kennedy in Washington, D.C., with a visit to the White House, a visit to the Lincoln Memorial where Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall reads the Emancipation Proclamation, a trip to the Capitol with Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, a visit to New York City / United Nations (UN) headquarters, a visit to Georgetown University and a meeting with Ethiopian students.

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President Kennedy publicly addresses Emperor Haile Selassie I

“Your Majesty:

On behalf of all of my fellow citizens, I want to express our great appreciation to you for having traveled across so many thousands of miles to visit us once again and also for the pleasure that you have brought us all in bringing with you your granddaughter, and the benefit you have brought us in bringing the members of your Government.

As you say, Ethiopia and the United States are separated not only by geography but by history and culture, but I think that they are bound together by necessity, and that is the necessity for all sovereign free countries to maintain the most intimate association.

So we are very proud to have you here because of what your country has done, what it is doing, because of the hospitality you have shown to my fellow countrymen when they have gone there to work or to visit.

Most of all, we are glad to have you here because of your own extraordinary record. Those of us who have held office for a comparatively brief time are somewhat awed to realize that you have borne the responsibility of leadership in your country for more than
45 years. For a good part of this century, with all the changes that it has brought to not only your own country but to the continent of Africa, and so much of the West during this whole period, the central thrust of burden has been borne by you. And to have borne it with such distinction in other days and to still bear it with such force-demonstrated by the fact that your capital was chosen by your fellow leaders of Africa to be the center of this great, cooperative movement which was symbolized by the summit meeting in your capital and which was made a success by your own very patient efforts–brings accord out of what could have been on occasion perhaps a disagreement.

So, looking to a long past, looking to a promising future, we want to say, Your Majesty, that we are proud to have you here, we have been honored by the visit, and I hope that this short time here in Washington will remind you once again of how strongly your place is secured in the affection of all of the people of the United States. I hope all of you will join with me in a toast to His Imperial Majesty.

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Note: The President spoke at the Woodmont Country Club in Rockville, Md. at a luncheon given in his honor by Emperor Haile Selassie. In his opening remarks the President referred to Princess Ruth Desta, the Emperor’s granddaughter.

The Emperor, speaking before him, began by mentioning the warm and friendly relationship between his nation and the United States. He referred to the growing number of Americans who go to Ethiopia–as members of economic and military aid missions, in the Peace Corps, as businessmen, and as tourists. Such associations, the Emperor continued, cannot but help the Ethiopian and American peoples to know each other better. Mutual understanding has also been broadened, he pointed out, by the many young Ethiopian leaders who have studied in the United States. “If their number now declines,” he added, “it will be because of the new university which has, with the generous help of the people and the Government of the United States, now assumed the responsibility for providing higher education in Ethiopia.”

The Charter of Unity recently signed in his capital by African heads of state demonstrates, said Emperor Haile Selassie, the will of their peoples, inspired by America’s example past and present, to prepare for themselves a future of unity and brotherhood.

He concluded with a toast to the President and to the two peoples, who are, he said, distant in geography but proximate in friendship and in spirit.

No sooner had Emperor Selassie returned to Ethiopia than he received the horrifying news that President Kennedy had been assassinated. Once again he “traveled across so many thousands of miles” to the United States, to be one of 220 representatives from 100 nations to attend his funeral.

The following passages describe Emperor Selassie’s relationship with President Kennedy’s wife Jacqueline and children, Caroline and John, six and three years-old respectively:

The Death of a President
by William Manchester

pages 583-584:

“…Overhead, St. Matthew’s choir sang the Gregorian “Subvenite” while the ushers struggled to seat the marchers quickly…. The snag was over the dignitaries. This was Angie Duke’s worry, and it was a stupendous one. The slight, sensitive chief of protocol had been working without rest for three days and three nights. Ahead of him, after the funeral, lay two crucial receptions – Mrs. Kennedy’s, in the executive mansion, and President Johnson’s, at State. Nevertheless it was his hour in church that was to be his hour of trial. First he found that the pews he had earmarked last night had been confiscated by Jack McNally for President Kenney’s staff. He was obliged to lead his chiefs of staff off to the right, to St Josephs Chapel – from which, he discovered in horror, the main altar was invisible.

Angie improvised. He seized a church functionary and demanded a television set. There was one in the cathedral, he was told, but using it in church during Mass was unthinkable. It had to be thinkable, said Angie, arguing furiously; diplomatic relations with ninety one countries were at stake. The set appeared and was plugged in. It would be the only one in the cathedral, he told his charges, and they looked immensely pleased. Their pleasure diminished, however, when he started seating them. It was then he realized that in failing to allow for overcoats he had miscalculated badly. He had forgotten something else; the Emperor of Ethiopia, the King of the Belgians, and the husband of the Queen of England were all carrying bulky swords, more space-takers. Putting four bodies in a pew instead of five made a difference of twenty people – twenty world leaders who would have to stand. It wouldn’t do. He would have to start cramming. Like a conductor on a crowded bus he kept urging them to move over. They complied, grunting. Some situations were especially awkward….”They were jammed in like sardines,” Angie said of the foreigners later. “I stood throughout the Mass and suffered. Somehow we had got them all seated, but I hate to think how it was done.”

From the front pew in the main well of the church young John saw Haile Selassie. The Lion of Judah, who looked like a midget next to Larry O’Brien, but was a giant to John. Last summer he had come to the mansion bearing gifts : a leopard-skin coat for Mrs. Kennedy (which she, as a token of respect, had worn at the time despite the sweltering heat) and two toys carved of ivory, a doll for Caroline and a warrior for John. Since then the children hadn’t stopped talking about Haile Selassie, and John pointed toward the side chapel and gazed across at him admiringly. Then the formalities became boring to the boy. He fidgeted. St. Matthew’s bronze doors had clanged shut behind the last four persons to enter–Judge Sarah Hughes, Bunny Mellon, Martin Luther King, and Mary Ryan from Ireland. Luigi Vena was singing Leybach’s “Pie Jesu” as the crucifer slowly returned the cross to the altar, accompanied by two other acolytes carrying candles. The Cardinal followed them, chanting in Latin. Behind him the casket team, moving stiffly like drugged automatons, wheeled the coffin into position in front of the first pew, a few feet from the widow….

None of this had any meaning for the President’s little son. From across the aisle Nina Warren and Joanie Douglas, in the Supreme Court section, heard him say “Where’s my Daddy?!” The boy lifted his arms. “Somebody pick me up.” Agent Foster, lurking near, carried him to the back of the church….

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page 606:

…Indeed, everything was over – the burial service, the state funeral, the strangely congruous blend of Old World mysticism and American tradition, the parade of uniforms and vestments, of judges and secret agents, of princes and prelates and anonymous, nondescript citizens who had surged across the bridge in the wake of the marching columns because they couldn’t bear to be left behind….

Cradling the flag under her left arm…she walked down the hill holding Bob Kennedy’s hand….In the car Mrs. Kennedy and the two brothers talked of the funeral – of how splendid it had been – and as the procession of returning cars came off the Washington side of the bridge and turned left, Robert Kennedy ordered the chauffeur of their car to leave the line and circle the Lincoln memorial from the right. That way he could see the statue. He told the driver to draw over in front of it, and they did, as thousands of tourists do each day. From the back seat President Kennedy’s widow and the two heirs of his political legacy inclined their heads leftward to look up between the columns at Daniel Chester French’s nineteen foot figure  of the sad, strong, brooding President Lincoln, the marble chin tilted in thought. After a while Bob tapped the chauffeur. They drove on without having spoken…

The Kennedy’s duty lay downstairs, where Angie Duke was leading their exotic guests to two buffets in the state and family dining rooms…

It s doubtful that any woman has ever prepared herself for a state function in less time. Before Peter Lawford entered the West Sitting Room to sit with Evelyn and his mother-in-law Jacqueline Kennedy had removed her veil and black beret, raked her simple coiffure into shape, and was in the Oval Room, ready to meet people. She was not going downstairs just yet, though. Here as everywhere she had her own way of doing things. For a little while she was going to be nearly as great a trial to Angie Duke as Jack McNally. A protocol officer must think in terms of nations, not people; he must pretend that every country is like every other country, distinguishable only by the alphabet. Sovereigns understood that. At the buffet Angie proposed that Queen Frederika precede President Lubke, on the ground that she was a woman; she recoiled, pointing out that Germany comes before Greece.

Jacqueline Kennedy didn’t like those rules. She only wanted to see four men in private, and she named them: Haile Selassie, Charles de Gaulle, Eamon de Valera, and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

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The first stage of the Kennedy reception therefore had three foci: her salon in the oval study, Rose Kennedy’s group in the sitting room, and the others downstairs. Various intermediaries shuttled in and out of the study – the Attorney General usually, assisted by Mac Bundy, by Angie, who had reluctantly agreed to “slip them up,” and, unexpectedly, by the Presidents son and daughter. Caroline and John had been assigned no role. They were supposed to be playing with Miss Shaw. Their impromptu appearances were welcomed , however,because famous men are just as susceptible to the magic spell of the very young as their constituents, and brother and sister scored their own triumphs, notably with the Lion of Judah.

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Bundy noted how he saw their mother “Charm the Old black Emperor and let him charm her  children – which he did most sweetly.  Really they were the charmers. The language barrier was formidable – Jacqueline Kennedy and Selassie spoke French, for his English was extremely limited – but the children had their own ways of communicating. ” He was, “ Mrs. Kennedy remembered, “their hero”; she fetched them from across the hall, and as they entered timidly at first, she pointed to his glittering chest and said, ” Look John, He’s such a brave soldier. That’s why he has all those medals. The boy crept up into his lap and touched one. Then Caroline ran to get the doll he had given her last summer. Her brother darted after her, and suddenly they were both in the Emperors lap, showing him the ivory carvings they had treasured. Haile Selassie examined John’s toy. “You will be a brave warrior,” he said haltingly. “Like your father.” They sat there for about twenty minutes , and to their mother the bond between them and the bearded old man in the gorgeous uniform was almost mystical. “He had this thing of love, and they showed him their little presents,” she recalled later. “And they were so happy, just staring at him and worshipping.”…

While Haile Selassie was in the study de Gaulle had stepped into the sitting room to tell Rose Kennedy of it, and Selassie, at Jacqueline Kennedy’s suggestion, had followed him there. Here again the Emperor was especially effective. The President’s mother recited his childhood diseases in French; “He was never a strong boy,” she said, “but he was so determined.”Selassie nodded and described how he had lost his own son, his crown prince. He and Rose discovered that they were the same age. “It’s wrong for parents to bury their children. It should be the other way round,” she said. He agreed: “It’s a violation of nature.”

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Although we wait to see, it’s unlikely that the importance of His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I ‘s attendance and the comfort he gave to the grief-stricken Kennedy family will be honestly portrayed in this feature film. In fact, very rarely is H.I.M Haile Selassie ever mentioned or touched upon in historical films or documentaries in-spite of having been described as the most famous human being of the 20th century, the most bemedalled and accoladed person as recorded in the Guinness World Records and the subject of the 1st colour photo ever to be printed in a newspaper.

Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia in film

Below you will find a very small list of cinematic films where His Imperial Majesty, Emperor Haile Selassie I (Ras Tafari) has been featured; if you compare this to Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Mussolini or Hitler (other very well known figures of the 20th Century) it is vastly disproportionate.

Mission to Moscow 1943

At the very beginning of the film, the story begins with the historic and prophetic speech spoken by the Emperor at the League of Nations in 1936.

Mission to Moscow is a 1943 film directed by Michael Cortiz, based on the 1941 book by the former U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union, Joseph E. Davies.

The movie chronicles the experiences of the second American ambassador to the Soviet Union and was made in response to a request by Franklin D. Roosevelt. It was made during World War II, when the Americans and Soviets were allies, and takes a more benign view of the Soviet government than most Hollywood films.

The brief film role of the character of the Emperor is actually very significant as unlike other films from this time which would “black up” white actors for black roles, the role of African Emperor Haile Selassie is played by an African actor, Leigh rollin Whipper (October 29, 1876 – July 26, 1975) who was an American actor on the stage and in motion pictures. He was the first African-American to join the Actors’ Equity Association, and one of the founders of the Negro Actors Guild of America.

 

Born Free 1965

Although H.I.M Haile Selassie I does not feature in this film, it does feature his own Lion cubs, the producers have made a special thank you to him in the credits for his assistance.

”the producers are also most grateful for help received from His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia)”

Orde Wingate Tv series 1976

H.I.M Emperor Haile Selassie’s character features in two episodes of this series.

Major – General Orde Charles Wingate was instrumental in the operation to liberate Ethiopia in 1940 – 1941.

At the outbreak of WW2, Wingate was the commander of an anti aircraft unit in Britain. He repeatedly made proposals to the army and government for the creation of a Jewish army in Palestine which would rule over the area and its Arab population in the name of the British. Eventually his friend Wavell, by this time commander-in-chief of Middle East Command which was based in Cairo, invited him to Sudan to begin operations against Italian occupation forces in Ethiopia. He created the Gideon Force, an SOE force composed of British, Sudanese and Ethiopian soldiers.

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Gideon force was named after the biblical judge, who defeated a large force with a tiny band.  Wingate invited a number of veterans of the Haganah SNS to join him. With the blessing of the Emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie, the group began to operate in February 1941.

Chariots of Fire 1980

Whilst protesting a play based on a 1970s communist propaganda book “The Emperor Downfall of an Autocrat” by Ryszard Kapuscinski, I met an elderly lady who asked if I knew that an actor/extra portrayed Negus Tafari (Haile Selassie as he is later known) at the 1924 Olympics in Paris. I have watched the movie but am yet to spot this feature! Perhaps it didn’t make the final cut.

The movie is about Two British track athletes, one a determined Jewish competitor and the other a devout Christian, who compete in the 1924 Olympics.

It could be very possible that the future Ethiopian Emperor is portrayed in this film as Ras Tafari Makonnen (Haile Selassie) did in fact attend the 1924 Olympics on his first visit to Europe as a representative of Empress Zawditu accompanied by a number of other Ethiopian dignitaries .

In 1924, Ras Tafari toured Europe and the Middle East visiting Jerusalem, Alexandria, Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Stockholm, London, Geneva, and Athens. With him on his tour was a group that included Ras Seyum Mangasha of western Tigray Province; Ras Hailu Tekle Haymanot of Gojjam province; Ras Mulugeta Yeggazu of Illubabor Province; Ras Makonnen Endelkachew; and Blattengeta Heruy Welde Sellase. The primary goal of the trip to Europe was for Ethiopia to gain access to the sea. In Paris, Tafari was to find out from the French Foreign Ministry (Quai d’Orsay) that this goal would not be realized. However, failing this, he and his retinue inspected schools, hospitals, factories, and churches. Although patterning many reforms after European models, Tafari remained wary of European pressure. To guard against economic imperialism, Tafari required that all enterprises have at least partial local ownership. Of his modernization campaign, he remarked, “We need European progress only because we are surrounded by it. That is at once a benefit and a misfortune.”

Throughout Ras Tafari’s travels in Europe, the Levant, and Egypt, he and his entourage were greeted with enthusiasm and fascination. He was accompanied by Seyum Mangasha and Hailu Tekle Haymanot who, like Tafari, were sons of generals who contributed to the victorious war against Italy a quarter century earlier at the Battle of Adwa

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Coming to America 1988

Although H.I.M Emperor Haile Selassie is not directly mentioned in the film, it has been said that the inspiration for the Wedding scene, the costumes and grandeur of the African royalty were based on the Coronation of His Majesty and Empress Menen which took place on the 2nd of November 1930.

Athetu “The Athlete”2009

By far the best film depicting the character of H.I.M Haile Selassie I, The Athlete is a portrait of the legendary marathon runner from Ethiopia, Abebe Bikila. In 1960, with great significance he participated in the Rome Olympic Games as a complete unknown. Running barefoot (as he was not comfortable in the running shoes he was supposed to wear) and won the gold medal. Four years later, he repeated his feat at the Tokyo Olympic Games, becoming the first man to win the Olympic marathon twice in a row. A few years later, he suffered a car accident and lost the use of his legs. Very sadly, He died four years later.

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Abebe Bikila was one of H.I.M Haile Selassie’s personal Imperial Bodyguard and the character of the Emperor features greatly in the film. In the closing scenes, Abebe is shown a screening of a film about his achievements, in the audience is the Emperor, who comes straight to greet and thank Abebe for his great service to Ethiopia at the end of the film. The film was made in 2009 and was directed by Rasselas Lakew and Davey Frankel.

Upstairs, Downstairs Television Series 2010

In one of the episodes of the 1st season of the (2010) reboot of Upstairs, Downstairs, the character of Emperor Haile Selassie I makes an off-camera appearance.

The synopsis of Season 1 Episode 2 provides this description:

”On a diplomatic assignment, Hallam meets with one of the fascist movement’s prime victims in 1936, the Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie. Arriving in England in exile after being deposed by Mussolini’s armies, Selassie warns ominously, “It is us today. It will be you tomorrow.””

From Synopsis at: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/masterpiece/upstairsdownstairs/synopsis_ep2.html

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Thankyou for taking the time to read my blog, if you have enjoyed the information found here, please remember that knowledge gained and not shared is knowledge lost… so feel free to share the link to this page. 

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Jah Love

Ras Benji 2017

Commissioned by the Lion of Judah, a Special Project in Addis Ababa National Library

Before the advent of social media, arranging our profiles in one way or another to express the higher or lower self, the traditional method of providing this impression in the centuries gone by (for those able to afford) would be through artistic means. This was of course tradition for Kings and Queens, especially those representative of a Ancient History. Often highly symbolic in meaning, how a historical figure has chosen to represent their own person (and also how they have been portrayed) in Art form can be very revealing.

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For a long time I have been fascinated by the mysterious nature of one painting in particular. I first saw the image of this mural whilst visiting the Ba Beta Krystiyan Church of Haile Selassie I near Porey Spring on the Island of Barbados. A country in the Eastern Caribbean where my paternal Grandfather was born, a descendant of the thousands of Africans displaced and dehumanised during the period of Transatlantic Slavery.

When first spending time looking at the photo of this painting, I remember having thought that it must hold a great significance especially because His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I is proudly standing in front of the painting which seems to be in some kind of classroom. Looking further, I found another image where HIM Haile Selassie is giving a speech, also in front of the mural.

I have since discovered that the mural painting can still be found in The National Library of Ethiopia in the Capital City of the Country, Addis Ababa. I have been lucky enough to visit Ethiopia but we were unable to see the painting at that particular time due to the library not being open. I really look forward to the day when I can sit quietly as many hundreds of students must have done and become mesmerised by its wonders in person!

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A few years ago, whilst searching online for further information, I found a great journal article in the Hal Archives – Ouvertes written by Anaıs Wion 2010 regarding especially the National Archives and Library of Ethiopia.

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” The National Library was one of the institutional tools conceived to elevate Ethiopia, and its Emperor, to the same rank as the industrialized and free nations, at a time when most of African and Southern countries were still under colonial domination.

This, at least, can be inferred from the monumental mural painting covering one of the walls of the Public Division main reading room the former Blatengéta Heruy Reading Hall.

In the centre sits enthroned Haile Selassie, wearing a crown and holding a sceptre and an imperial globe, with three lions at his feet and the Trinity church in the background. Allegorical scenes are depicted all around.

At the left of the Emperor, one can see dead bodies of traditional warriors, women and children fleeing in terror, a column of horsemen holding spears and small tanks on the top of a hill. Two statuesque women, holding books but not reading, mourn and condemn this scene. Between sky and earth, heavy black birds glide over this desolation. At the right of the Emperor, one can see in the background women running to exalt khaki-dressed soldiers marching in column while huge tanks stand in the background and proud planes protect the army. In the foreground, children have stopped their games for reading amid peaceful scenery.

Two allegoric female figures symbolise Justice and Veneration for the Emperor. All this happens on earth. In the heavy cloudy sky, winged demons fight against archangels and four horsemen gallop to the cardinal points, referring clearly to the Apocalypse (6: 1-7). As suggested by Giulia Bonacci, this very symbolic painting could be a representation of the final eschatological battle leading to the advent of the messiah incarnated here by the Ethiopian Emperor.

The political meaning of the whole could be therefore, when related to the context of a National Library, a praise of modernisation and enlightenment, and a condemnation of the kind of backwardness which would not allow Ethiopia to stand on equal footing with the industrialised countries. Books and education are here compared to weapons and are designated as one of the main strengths of a Nation.

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Curiously enough, in spite of its monumental size and strong symbolic message, none
of the articles mentioning the National Library has ever paid attention to this painting. And I
was able to find only two published photos, both of them black and white. According to
Richard Pankhurst, the painter was Beatrice Playne, a British artist who lived in Ethiopia at
the end of the 1940’s and beginning of the 1950’s.

In her book on Ethiopian church paintings,
she introduced herself saying that she had learned mural painting in Mexico, that she arrived in Ethiopia as a British Council worker on December 1945 and that she “was engaged on some special work in the National Library in Addis Abeba very shortly after [her] arrival”

The Emperor later had his portrait repainted by Em’a’älaf Heruy, son of aläqa Heruy, who
had his atelier in the National Library and was appreciated for his fine execution of portraits,
which he painted from photos. It was a very dynamic period for the National Library, which
also the atelier of the famous Afä-Wärq Täklä. Additionally, the National Library
had an Art Gallery as well as a Historical Museum. ”

Reference:

Ana¨ıs Wion. The National Archives and Library of Ethiopia: six years of Ethio-French coopera-tion (2001-2006). dir. Wolbert Smidt. The National Archives and Library of Ethiopia: six yearsof Ethio-French cooperation (2001-2006), Jan 2006, Ethiopia. 20 p., 2010.

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