“Africa unite! ‘Cause we’re moving right out of Babylon, and we’re going to our Father’s land.” – Bob Marley, Africa Unite.
The right to return to a perceived motherland is a concept expressed deeply by much of the Diaspora and people of African descent. Giulia Amati’s Shashamane explores key issues surrounding migration and identity among the African Diaspora community. But where is home?
When Emperor Haile Selassie granted part of Ethiopia’s land to the displaced peoples of Africa around the globe, the distant image of ‘home’ became much clearer for many. Through this observational documentary, we are presented with a time machine, following the move to Ethiopia made by a group of Afro-Caribbean individuals in search of ‘home’.
The film offers personal testimonies of their journeys, made in the hopes of escaping consumerist culture in the West and returning to the land of their forefathers. As mentioned by one of the documentary subjects, “in the West (Indies), home is a house, but in Africa, it is much greater than that. In Africa, it’s a spiritual connection with the land, the people and the creator”.
Through a collection of photographic memories and oral accounts, we get a glimpse of what life was, and remains to be, for this African Diaspora community living in Ethiopia. When a British photographer who was present at the initial wave of migration to Shashamane returns to the villages bearing his photographs from the time, he brings with him nostalgic memories of a hopeful past.
“You have to want Africa for Africa to want you”
Beyond a promised land, there was no system put in place to help these communities return and settle permanently in Ethiopia. The original Shashamane settlers arrived via a tourist visa and most continue to be paperless and enduring hardship in their everyday lives.
When Emperor Haile Selassie was overthrown and the Derg Regime took power in the mid-1970s, the nationalisation of land was interpreted by most Ethiopians as the removal of the land grant given to the African Diaspora. Though portions of the land were later returned to them, many Ethiopians today still do not understand why the African Diaspora settlers continue to be there. By revealing such historical tensions, the director highlights the issue of re-integration beyond the construction of one’s identity.
Amati’s Shashamane beautifully captures the fraught relationship between Africa and its Diaspora. Telling tales of separation, adventure and consciousness, it illustrates the movement of peoples in the hopes of bettering themselves and their connection to the ‘motherland’. The film takes you on a journey, as you too embark on a mission to uncover a missing identity, in search of a place, a land, a sanctuary that you can call home.
Buy tickets to see the UK Premiere of Shashamane
Tue 1 Nov | 18:30 | Ritzy Brixton BOOK NOW
Addie Tadesse is a blogger and full time university student, currently studying BA History and Development Studies. Though her main interests lie in African history and development, she gains most of her inspiration from the arts (film, music and literature). Born in London to Ethiopian parents, she represents the younger generation of African Diaspora attempting to reassert the importance of heritage.