Saturday, November 27

On My Radar: Culture Highlights from Lemn Sissay | Lemn sissay

Lemn Sissay is an author, poet and broadcaster born to an Ethiopian mother in 1967 in London. He has published poetry since 1985 and is the author of five collections. He was named an MBE for his services to literature in 2010 and was the official poet of the 2012 London Olympics. His critically acclaimed memoirs, My name Because, was published in 2019. He is supporting WaterAid Future on Tap appeal to help transform lives with clean water.

1. Art

Addis Fine Art Gallery

Pillars of life by Tadesse Mesfin
Pillars of the life of Tadesse Mesfin. Photography: Eyerusalem A Jiregna / Courtesy of Addis Fine Art

It is the first Ethiopian art gallery in British history. My advice to investors is to buy Ethiopian art now! It opened in West London in October. I went to his last exhibition, but it closed three days later because of Covid. The artist they currently present is Tadesse mesfin. He is a giant of the Ethiopian art scene, occupying a unique position as a figurehead of the Ethiopian modernist movement. The work in this exhibition, called Pillars of Life, is that of the women of the Ethiopian markets who work every day. He exalts women and represents the true heroes of Ethiopian society.

2. Fiction

A River Called Time by Courttia Newland

Courttia newland
Courttia Newland: “If you want to know the history of Great Britain, it is very important to read Newland.” Photograph: Jill Mead / The Guardian

This novel will go on sale in January, so you must reserve it. Their [set in an alternative world where slavery and colonialism never happened] and is written by British author Courttia Newland, co-author of two Steve McQueen’s Small Ax anthology films. So if you like these movies, try exploring further. We need to look for stories of people who would not otherwise be seen. If you want to know the history of Great Britain, it is very important that you read Newland. There’s a reason Oscar-winner McQueen is working with him. Their catalog of novels is worth looking at.

3. Music

Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou

Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou
Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou: ‘a powerful hypnotic effect. Photography: Gali Tibbon

She is an Ethiopian nun who plays the piano. His music is very relaxing. You may have heard it in the Carex announcement which came out very recently. I’ve been a fan of hers for years. She uses the Ethopian scales on the piano, which have this powerful and hypnotic effect. I’m sure it would help you fall asleep or calm down in the middle of a hectic day. It is simply beautiful. There is no better time for relaxing music than now. She is only resurfacing right now. The song I would ask people to listen to is Mother’s Love, 1963.

Dave Chambers.
Dave Chambers.

4. Podcast

The Blindboy podcast

Blindboy [Dave Chambers] It boils down to big ideas, like the link between Renaissance art, which he is adept at, and the foreskin of Jesus. It deconstructs the state and the church from the 18th century to the current Google and Pfizer tax breaks. His podcast is not only hilarious, it dismantles preconceptions in such a way that it makes them seem strange, with foolproof logic and creative flair unmatched in the podcast universe. It’s amazing what it does. He is also an artist who works in hyperreality. There is an episode, which is about Donald Trump with women in his hotel room in Russia, and women are acting for him. It happened, who recorded it, how was it done? When you listen to that episode, it is mind blowing.

5. Facebook page

500 acts of kindness

Actress Julie Hesmondhalgh, creator of the Facebook page 500 Acts of Kindness.
Actress Julie Hesmondhalgh, creator of the Facebook page 500 Acts of Kindness. Photograph: Christopher Thomond / The Guardian

It’s amazing. It was started by actress Julie Hesmondhalgh. Every member, and there are thousands, donates £ 1 a week to people in crisis or in need. All you need to do to warm your heart about the community, and to see that there is something good in the world and it is happening around us all the time, is to read the stories of the people who receive the donations. You may have a young mother who has nowhere to live and needs a £ 500 deposit for a flat. You may hear that there was a flood and an 80-year-old man living alone needs wellies and a heater to stay warm in winter. The page can change their lives at the crucial moment.

6. Instagram

Banana Bruiser

One of Anna Chojnicka's bruised bananas.
One of Anna Chojnicka’s bruised bananas. Photography: Instagram / @ banana_bruiser

Every day since the first confinement, when Anna Chojnicka had to isolate herself, she has been hurting bananas. There is no ink involved. She hits the banana [with the end of a comb or pin], wait for it to get dark, then do the next part, so it takes a long time. She is an example of how creativity can help your well-being. There is a very good BBC World Service video this. Imagine you do something creative and put it on Twitter, and then the BBC World Service says, “Hey, we want to broadcast this!” I am so impressed and it makes me smile.

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