Shemelis Desta

A post about Ethiopia that is not about Meles Zenawi’s regime. Next week (Tuesday 7 till Sunday 12 December 2010) the inaugural Addis Photo Fest, featuring a group of African and African diaspora photographers, takes over the Ethiopian capital. (The festival is curated by the young, photographer Aida Muluneh). One of the highlights is a retrospective of the work of London-based Shemelis Desta, who was official photographer to the Emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie, from the early 1960s until Selassie was overthrown in a military coup in 1974. The photo above was taken in 1971 and shows the newly ordained second Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Abune Theophilos, kissing Selassie’s hand as a sign of respect and gratitude. To learn more about Desta’s work and his impact, see here, here and here (The latter is an online gallery created by one of Desta’s two sons).

Below are two more of Desta’s pictures: When Britian’s Queen Elizabeth came to visit Selassie in 1965 and when Fidel Castro came to see Selassie’s conquerer, Mengisto Haile Mariam in 1977.



Sean Jacobs

Also goes by Hasan Wazan. Life President.

  1. Great photographs:

    Elizabeth II perched rigidly at the edge of her seat as if ready to bolt. Phillip her husband looking across at her as if to say " don't you dare do it!" Selassie and the the others impassive, looking straight ahead as if refusing to acknowledge something distasteful.

    Castro the arch communist celebrating Mengistu's supposedly communist/socialist revolution in a convertible Cadillac – can anything be a more ostentatious symbol of capitalism- with the hammer and sickle for a licence plate.

    Just on the strength of these two photographs, the man is clearly a master.

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