House of IFE

By Beru Tessema @Bush Theatre until 11th June


Your house.

Is more than the structure, the furniture, the people.


Your HOUSE, your HOME is about that good vibration you get when you walk through then door!

Vibe.

And this vibe that you experience as you walk through your HOUSE is reflected as you walk through the doors of the auditorium.


The smell of incense.

The Lion of Judah flag on the wall.

The Ethiopian Cross.

And FAMILY!


Talking about HOUSE and Vibes, I caught a vibe with my brother who attended the production with me.

Since moving HOUSE - it's been crucial to my psyche that I connect with my family. And connecting with my brother led to us to talking about Rastafari, Ethiopia our HOUSEhold without even knowing what we were about to experience.


Vibe.


We walked into the familiar smell of burning incense,

Recognised the Ethiopian flag and cross on the wall -

Coming from our Jamaican - Rastafari background and having my Mothers first son to my right... I felt right at HOME.


House of Ife.

Ife is said like Strife... but without the first three letters.

HOUSE of (str)IFE

I thought this was an interesting title - not just because Ife is the name of the oldest son... but because this Ethiopian family drama picked apart the strife within a lot of family HOUSEholds.


Definition of strife
1a : bitter sometimes violent conflict or dissension political strife. b : an act of contention : fight, struggle. 2 : exertion or contention for superiority. 3 archaic : earnest endeavor.


I think strIFE exists because of this.. The Cross.

The Cross - representing the intersections as well as the different pathways.

The Cross - representing a White ideology

The Cross - representing the spellbound belief system that is lost inanely two outcomes - right and wrong.


But my Mothers son... my maternal brother, the Sun of my family house disagreed.


He says that there are a lot of great aspects of religion. Order, Culture, Discipline, Love.


This difference in opinion is something that my HOUSEhold often have heated discussions about. However, as explored in the HOUSE of Ife - Order, Culture, Discipline and Love can be expressed differently - and this difference (if not discussed) is a root cause in tearing the family, the Black family apart.

And for me, religion, even in the form of Ethiopian Christianity (the first form of christianity) has been spoiled and tainted by crusaders, colonialism and White Supremacy - and works as a knife, a drug, a separation without a crusader, colonialist or White Supremacist even stepping foot in your HOME!


Yosi the son of the HOUSE raps;

"And born again, an African on a higher plane
Praying to Black Jesus to keep me sane..."

And I watch as my Mothers Son connects with Yosi -the son on stage through their 'BLACK CHRIST'.


Yosi as a boy's name is a variant of Joseph. Originating in Hebrew, Yosi means "Yahweh will add (another son)".

Holding an uncanny similarity to a young Haile Selassie - I wonder... whether Yosi realises that it is written that he is the second coming of Black Jesus?


I enjoyed the The HOUSE Of (str)Ife - raising the importance between Father and Son. The Black Father and Son. It made me question -


Can a son find sanity without his father?

Does the son even want to 'exist' without his Dad?


However, after reviewing the play text their were sections that I noticed were missed... important sections.


"(Yosi presses his forehead against his father's - torn between his rage and his desperate longing for his father's love)"

A section that both my brother and I longed for and discussed before even realising that it was written... but not played!


Vibes.


This, for me, was a crucial piece of the play - as it constructively pin points an evolution in patriarchy!

This seemingly small but relevant action demonstrates how a Son learns from the mistakes of his Father and consciously decides, through a fiery baptism, to be reborn into a better version.


Man of CHRIST!


Another moment of the play which was missed on stage but written in the text was a scene between Father and Daughter.


 Solomon and Aida - chapter 10. 

Its exclusion effected the humanisation of Solomon the father - and potentially was erased because of an unconscious attempt to erase the father... from his daughter??

Without experiencing the baptism of fire between father and son and explanation of sorrow from the father to daughter a bias of the typical antagonist - selfish, villain, Black father - - the devil, creeps in - in our view of Solomon then father.

Without this scene the relevance of the Father - his role - alongside Mother and Children is not expressed and dangerously leads to the validation of an incomplete HOUSE of strIFE.


I looked to my right at my mothers Son - and watched how her son, focused in and paid close attention to, the father and son scenes of Solomon and Yosi. He raised my awareness of how we who are not religious, unconsciously use our own biases of religion - to make religion the selfish, villain, father - the typical antagonist - the devil, by editing a narrative to serve our own subconscious politics!



The females were the core of this production which I enjoyed. In a patriarchal narrative, with Christianity as a backdrop, I thoroughly enjoyed the moments of strength and obedience - particularly between Yosi and his mother Meron. It showed the importance of matriarchy in the African family.

However, I felt that the oldest sister Aida who carried the weight of the production, played in/ towards the emotional state. This slowed the pace of the play. It would be interesting to see Aida being played with the strength and resilience learnt from her mother. Especially because the second daughter Tsion showed the homely, nurturing side of Meron.



The Ethiopian story is an intersection of Blackness - and it is an important story which is seldom told. As the daughter of Rastas, I learnt through watching this play, this family, the cultural similarities that I share and have been adopted by Rastas worldwide. Loved this!


#shoutout to Yosi played by Michael Workeye - who has natural energetic magnetism.

He seamlessly culturally unified - Ethiopia/ Road man/ Jamaica/ London/ Masculinity and VIBES.

Roadman: Roadman comes from the 21st century slang word, describing a boy (normally at a teenage age) as someone who thoroughly knows the ins and outs of his area, and the people in the area – he will also be involved in popular events such as trapping, driving (cruising), parties etc.

Watch! And let m e know your thoughts @Bush Theatre until 11th June.

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