A seven hour flight on Ethiopian Airlines. I am here in Addis for four days. It’s MONDAY..
Meseret meets me at the airport. Meseret iis my friend from The ECA.
The first thing to do is check in at The Hilton and take this picture from my room.
And then to visit and pay respect to The Pankhurst family. Professor Rita Pankhurst, Helen Pankhurst and Alula Pankhurst. Here is Helen and Alula.
The Hilton Hotel is a great place to meet intelligent people. This is Rebecca Araya. She’s General Manager at The America Chamber of Commerce in Ethiopia.
TUESDAY it’s Easter celebrations. I spent the day with family. As it should be. It was all about food, food, food. And it was beautiful. The day started at 10.30am with a tradition that goes back a long long way. The man to my right is the number one vetinary surgeon in Ethiopia. He is family. The man to my left is the state minister for finance. It was an honour to spend time with them. Melkam Fasika.
TUESDAY 9AM I meet Aida Muluneh the most famous living photographer in Ethiopia.
She is Sony World Potography Award Judge, Director of Addis Photofest and Curator of the next Dakar Biennale. She has four exhibitions opening in France. And others in US.
On reflection I prefer this picture. Aida and I are determined to work together. I am honoured that she allowed her photograoh (of me) to be printed in my book.
In the afternoon at a Dashenl restaurant in Addis my friend Aster Zaoude threw a welcome party for me. At this table from left to right Mr and Mrs Tadesse, Bernie, Anna, Marcos (ICEADDIS) , and Sally Duncan. They are all some kind of amazing.
The picture below is everyone. Thankyou Dashen restaurant. Here there is a supermodel, doctors, lawyers, singers, academics and a princess.
Most of all thankyou Aster Zaoude. Thankyou for everyting. Aster is the cool woman on my right. On my left is Anna Getaneh. I’ll tell you more about Anna later.
TUESDAY: I am guest of honour at The Queens Birthday Partyat The British Embassy. We are celebrating the strong relationship between Ethiopia and Britain. There are hundreds of dignitaries dressed in all their finery.
The speech by ambassador Sussanna Moorehead has me in awe. Before inviting me on stage (to speak) she says “we have a surprise for you Lemn” and The Scots Royal Guards who were stood behind me stepped forwrard and played Amazing Grace on the bagpipes. If you have heard Desert Island Discs you will know what this meant to me. I wept.
Public tears. Very unbritish.Very unethiopian. Then I walked to the podium and spoke.
And thenI spoke some more. In my speechI link the Queens Birthday with the nature of family. And the nature of family with Ethiopian and British relations.
It is difficult to explain how much it means to be guest of honor at The British Embassy in Addis Ababa. I dedicate my speech to Rita Pankhurst and her late husband Professor Richard Pankhurst.
The Ethiopian singer Munit Mesfin was at The Embassy too. Hear her beautiful music.
WEDNESDAY 9AM. I had the honour of an audience with The President of Addis Ababa University Professor . Admasu Tsegaye.He also invited Professor Tassew Woldehanna, President of research and technology Transfer and Professor Bekele Gutema of The Department of Philosophy and Director of Graduate Programs
At 10am I am whisked off to meet Peter Brown. He is the new head of The British Council Ethiopia. It is a kind coincidence that Peter was at The Ugandan British Council from where he brokered The Equity and Merit scholarship scheme with University of Manchester.
There were a couple of lessons going on inside The British Council so I popped in for an improptu chat with the students
and another class asked for a pic outside. I’m always happy for a photo.
Then at 2pm back at the hotel it was my first time to sim in naturally heated spring water.
But as I exit the pool a reporter called Dawit called in from The reporter
Meanwhile my friend Anna Chojnicka was in Captial newspaper talking of her NGO – Reach for Change. It is 99 percent Ethiopiain workers. it is a good place. A good NGO.
Then for a meal at Yehsi’s house. I coud feel the passages of timein her home.
Yeshi owns Tila which is a beautiful gym and spar. Yeshi is really close to my family.
Back at The Hilton hotel I meet the Ethiopians who came to my Uganda event a month ago. . They gave me the picture below which was taken in Kampala.
Talking of gifts. This next one is precious too. It was given to me today by a princess of His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie. The princess heard me talking of the tatoo of a cross on my hand. I did it myself with Indian ink when I was 14. I did not know I was Ethiopian. A generation of Ethiopian women tatoo themselves too. Today I received this.
This is Selam. She manages Tila. Yeshi is her aunt.
THURSDAY: I’m leaving today. I’ve done many more things than in this blog. while I have been here. I met professor Abebe Zegeye to discuss astronomy developments in unviersities in Ehiopia. I met Architect Fasil Giorghis an expert in Urban Planning Below is Bewketu Seyoum. He is the most famous living young writer in Ethiopia. He is an academic an his readers are the entire country.
Below is Ephrem Seyoum. He has translated thirty of my poems into Amharic.
I also met the pilot Yonas MeKcuria . He fought hijackers then landed this plane.
He is a national hero and I am making a BBC radio Documentary with him. he called up to my room at 7am having flown in from Bejing this morning..
“Each time I fly I whisper to the engines. I become one with the plane.” He is everything you would imagine a true pilot to be. It is an inspiring meeting with a magnificent man”. At 2pm I meet another incredible. The supermodel philanthropist Anna Getaneh.
I had the leasure of visiting her new store – African Mosaique. It’s beautiful.
And so it is time to check out of The Hilton Hotel (Thankyou Ethiopia Alfred. ) and drive to the airport
And then to fly through the night & land at Heathrow early on Friday Morning.
I am booked to give a talk to a series of American CEO’s from The texas Chapter of The Young Presidents Organisation . On Friday morning they had an arts tour of east London. So I get home and cycle to my friends new studio in Shoreditch which is round the corner from the venue of the talk I am to deliver..
Me and Stik are friends. His studio roks. We laugh. “if a tree falls in the forest and nobody blogs then did it fall” he says. I wave goodbye and cycle onwards to The Tramshed (the venue) in Shoreditch. This is what I see when I enter.
It is an artwork by Damian Hirst.The Texas Chapter of The Young Presidents Organisation are in the lower floor of Tramshed . So I walk downstairs and I speak of art and poetry and my life story. It links to my time in Ethiopia. It links to my show at the royal court in a weeks timeon 30th April. It links to the heart and the head and to them. And to now.
And then I say. “what if I told you that artist STIK whose work you’ve seen this morning was here. Now?” And stik walks in from the back of the room.
He enthrals them with an impassioned talk and then he’s gone. I finish on my story and then I too am gone. I must apologise because the event went overtime by at least an hour.
SATURDAY: I have been in England less than 24 hours and this article comes out in Ethiopia.
And finaly a little more
So that’s my four days in Addis finishing off with two days in London. Are friends the famiy you make? I’vespent my life denying that they are. But maybe it’s true. Maybe friends are the family you make and that includes friends inside the family you have. Making friends is good. Keeping them is even better. I returned to England with a refreshed confidence of one who knows he is loved.