Arts & Culture
Emperor Haile Selassie and the Black history of Bath
- 8:00 pm
17 November 2020
Online | Donation
This illustrated talk will explore the connections the city of Bath (South West England ) has with African people. We start with Ethiopian Emperor Haille Selassie I, who lived in the city in the 1930s and left a lasting legacy both physical and cultural. We will also explore the African presence that preceded his arrival and go back to Georgian and Victorian times.
- Ancient African history, royal lineage and culture
- When Ethiopians defeated the Italian army
- Hitler, Mussolini, World War Two and European greed in Africa
- The League of Nations betrayal
- Black Victorians
- Dirty Bristol money and beautiful streets, how to whitewash a Bath
- Truth and Stereotypes of Rastafari
The link will be sent to your email address 90 minutes before the start.
Register to attend here
About the Speaker
Dr Shawn Naphtali Sobers is an academic, filmmaker, photographer and writer. As an academic he is Associate Professor of Cultural Interdisciplinary Practice at University of the West of England, Bristol, and studied Media Anthropology at School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). Principles relating to community media and participatory practice underpin much of his work, and published work includes exploring post-colonial memory and space, Rastafari language and culture, and creative citizenship in social media. As a filmmaker he has directed and produced documentaries for BBC1, ITV and Channel 4. Topics of his work are wide ranging, including Ethiopian connections with the city of Bath, legacies of the slavery in the UK, youth culture, African presence in Georgian and Victorian Britain, youth homelessness, and living with terminal illness. As a photographer Shawn works across many genres including documentary, portraiture, montage and archival reconstruction. He has been exhibited nationally and internationally, and features in a range of books and collections. Shawn is co-founder of Imperial Voice Radio, based at the former home of Emperor Haile Selassie I in Bath.
A True King
Haile Selassie I was known as a child as Lij Tafari Makonnen. Lij translates to ‘child’, and serves to indicate that a youth is of noble blood. His given name, Tafari, means ‘one who is respected or feared’. Like most Ethiopians, his personal name Tafari is followed by that of his father Makonnen and rarely that of his grandfather Woldemikael. His Ge’ez name Haile Selassie was given to him at his infant baptism and adopted again as part of his regnal name in 1930.
As Governor of Harer, he became known as Ras Tafari Makonnen. Ras translates to ‘head’ and is a rank of nobility equivalent to Duke; though it is often rendered in translation as ‘prince’. In 1916, Empress Zewditu I appointed him to the position of Balemulu Silt’an Enderase (Regent Plenipotentiary). In 1928, she granted him the throne of Shoa, elevating his title to Negus or “King”.
On 2 November 1930, after the death of Empress Zewditu, Ras Tafari was crowned Negusa Nagast, literally King of Kings, rendered in English as ‘Emperor’. Upon his ascension, he took as his regnal name Haile Selassie I. Haile means in Ge’ez ‘Power of’ and Selassie means trinity—therefore Haile Selassie translates to ‘Power of the Trinity’.
Haile Selassie’s full title in office was ‘By the Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I, King of Kings of Ethiopia, Elect of God’. This title reflects Ethiopian dynastic traditions, which hold that all monarchs must trace their lineage to Menelik I, who was the offspring of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba.
To Ethiopians, Haile Selassie has been known by many names, including Janhoy, Talaqu Meri, and Abba Tekel. The Rastafari movement employs many of these appellations, also referring to him as Jah, Jah Jah, Jah Rastafari, and HIM (the abbreviation of ‘His Imperial Majesty’).
His coronation took place at Addis Ababa’s Cathedral of St. George. The coronation was by all accounts ‘a most splendid affair’, and it was attended by royals and dignitaries from all over the world. Among those in attendance were George V’s son the Duke of Gloucester, Marshal Franchet d’Esperey of France, and the Prince of Udine representing the King of Italy. Emissaries from the United States, Egypt, Turkey, Sweden, Belgium, and Japan were also present. British author Evelyn Waugh was also present, penning a contemporary report on the event, and American travel lecturer Burton Holmes shot the only known film footage of the event. One newspaper report suggested that the celebration may have incurred a cost in excess of $3,000,000.
Many of those in attendance received lavish gifts; in one instance, the Christian emperor even sent a gold-encased Bible to an American bishop who had not attended the coronation, but who had dedicated a prayer to the emperor on the day of the coronation.
Once His Imperial Majesty took his place on the throne, his holiness Abuna Kyrillos, the highest official in Ethiopia’s Coptic Christian Church, broke the solemn silence with the following decree:
“Ye princes and ministers, ye nobles and chiefs of the army, ye soldiers and people of Ethiopia, and ye doctors and chiefs of the clergy, ye professors and priests, look ye upon our Emperor Haile Selassie the First, descended from the dynasty of Menelik the First, who was born of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, a dynasty perpetuated without interruption from the time of King Sehale to our times.” “That God make this Crown a Crown of Glory. That, by the Grace and the blessing which we have given, you may have an Unshaken Faith and a Pure Heart, in order that you may inherit the Crown Eternal. So be it.”
This event is presented by Black History Walks