[dehai-news] (ThisIsLondon, UK) Lemn Sissay, British-Eritrean-Ethiopian artist's one man show: Why I Don't Hate White People

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From: Biniam Tekle (biniamt@dehai.org)
Date: Wed Jan 28 2009 - 09:26:45 EST

I Don't Hate White People

Dir: John E McGrath.
Cast: Lemn Sissay
  Lemn Sissay's black and white ragBy Bruce Dessau, Evening Standard
27-01-09 More reviews by Bruce Dessau

Lemn Sissay: well-placed to discuss race

With parentage that takes in Ethiopia, Eritrea and, as Lemn Sissay adds,
Wigan Social Services, this amiable writer/performer is well-positioned to
discuss race.

The autobiographical Why I Don't Hate White People does not achieve the
near-impossible and find new angles on an old issue but it is a lively,
entertaining attempt.

Sissay is a compelling presence as he patters barefoot around the stage
explaining how one colour dominated his upbringing in white foster families
in Seventies Lancashire. Everything was white and white was good. Nice
witches were white witches, nice lies were white lies.

As his tale evolves there are familiar encounters with narrow minds. The pub
that, like a bar in a Western, silences when he enters. The strangers that
want to touch his Afro. Yet Sissay literally goes further. On film he
travels to the Arctic asking people there what white means. Each incident is
recalled with neat wit and economical expressions, a smile here, a nod

At times things teeter on the brink of theatre-in-education earnestness but
this is a clever, compassionate meditation on belonging. Theatre plus
stand-up equalling thoughtful fun.
*Until 14 February (0871 2211726, www.lyric.co.uk).*
*Text from Lemn's blog*
 The man who wrote the eritrean national anthem

by lemn sissay on Tue 26 Aug 2008 08:12 AM BST

I am in Eritrea the country of my father and my fathers family. They are
good people. They are strong people. Eritrea, once a part of Ethiopia and
now after thirty years of war, the longest war in the 20th century that
ended in 1995, a fiercly independent country. Tonight a reading by a
novelist, The Journalist, with whom I am visiting the country

The audience of 200 at The British Council take their seats and after an
introduction by Gisella the wife of the acting british ambassador the
journalist gives an amazing reading. The audience is full, from Ministers to
The Journalists family. The question and answer session is lively and
appreciative and mainly centres around whether or not her book will be
translated into Tigray the national language.

 I realise how famous The Journalist is when I see her stood in front of
this adoring and critical audience. The British council lay on an
excellent spread of food and drink. The PA is perfect and they have to be
commended for doing such an accomplished job. But most of all Gisella, the
pregnant background woman and *"wife of diplomat"* who is the real force for
good in this entire story and without whom none of this would have happened.

Afterwards outside I am having a cigarette. A man says hello and asks for
the light. He asks my name "Lemn Sissay" I say to him. He repeats my
name bringing his hand to his face in shock. "I wrote to you" he says and
produces both the letter and two of my books of poetry. "I was at leeds
university". He was then minister for cultural affairs. He produces my
letter and the books. I am honoured to met him again. He had come to the
reading tonight. This is the man who wrote the Eritrean national
anthem!! I am so pleased to be here.
  Posted to: Main Page

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