Shemelis Desta's Photographic Archive: 1963 -1982
Tuesday, September 18, 2007.
Against the political and historical events that defined the twentieth century, Shemelis Desta recorded the rather uneven history of Ethiopia.
Now, for the first time, a London gallery is hosting a major exhibition of the key figures and moments he captured with his camera.
From the early 1960s until deposition Mr Desta was Emperor Haile Selassie’s official court photographer. During this time he took photographs of world leaders, including a youthful Queen Elizabeth II.
Following the infamous 1974 military coup and subsequent deposition of the Emperor, Desta continued to record government activity under the rule of the military dictator, Mengistu Haile Mariam.
Desta captured the colourful pageantry of state military processions as well as a state visit from Fidel Castro.
This exhibition not only celebrates the power of the documentary photograph and the discovery of such a monumental archive, but also the story of a very personal journey and a country that is rich in culture, tradition and history.
Curated by Autograph, this exhibition coincides with the Ethiopian calendar’s millennium celebrations.
Revolutionary Square (formerly Meskel Square), Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 1978.
President Mengistu Haile Mariam and the Cuban Revolutionary leader President Fidel Castro watching the military show.
It was said that with help from the Soviet Union and Cuba, ‘by the end of the seventies, Mengistu presided over the second largest army in all of the Sub-Saharan Africa and a formidable air force and navy as well.’
Emperor Selassie in his office
The City Hall, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 1965
Emperor Haile Selassie I, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and her husband Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh on an official visit Ethiopia in February 1965, listening to the speech of the Mayor of Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia.
Menilek Square, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 1973.
Ethiopian female war veterans who fought heroically to defend the independence of their country during the Italian aggression in 1936 – 41, celebrating the commemoration of the Victory of the Battle Adwa.
Jubilee Palace, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 1974.
Emperor Haile Selassie being led into a small car by junior members of the 'Derg', (The Co-ordinating Committee of the Armed Forces, the Police and Territorial Army) that would take him to a military barracks as a prisoner and subsequently to his allegedly unlawful assassination in August of the same year.
Ethiopia: From Emperor to Military Dictator is open free to the public at:
The Photographers’ Gallery
5 & 8 Great Newport Street
London WC2H 7HY
Nearest Tube Leicester Square
Tel +44 (0)20 7831 1772
Fax +44 (0)20 7836 9704
All images are copyright of © Shemelis Desta / Courtesy Autograph ABP.
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