The Anglo-Ethiopian Society
Ethiopian Study Visit - Saturday 17th August 2013
Ethiopian Private Collection
Given by - Stephen Bell
Reviewed by - Anne Parsons
On a fine Saturday afternoon in August a small number of members and guests of The Anglo-Ethiopian Society visited the home of historian, and Society member, Stephen Bell in rural Nottinghamshire.
Stephen has a very long-standing interest in, and association with, Ethiopia. Over a wonderful lunch, and as an introduction to our visit, Stephen told us some fascinating stories about his early childhood in Addis Ababa (of living in the British Embassy compound where his father Ian Bell served in the diplomatic service from 1949 to 1953; and of Christmas parties given by HIM Haile Selassie for the diplomats' children). Stephen has returned to Ethiopia many times since those early days to travel and undertake research, and he has frequently lectured to the Society about some of these journeys (such as travelling on the Addis-Djibouti railway and walking along the 'Napier route' from the Eritrean coast to Magdala).
For our visit we were privileged to see some original paintings and drawings, including those of Stephen's father Ian Bell. Evocative landscapes made us all eager to visit Ethiopia again and readers may be interested to note that one of the largest paintings by Ian Bell, of the Bridge at Debra Libanos, now hangs proudly in the main reception room of the Ethiopian Embassy in London. Also of great interest from the time the Bell family spent in Ethiopia was the diary and journal of Stephen's mother where she recorded, in detail, their outings to places such as Lalibela, long before it had become a popular destination on the farenji tourist trail.
Stephen also has a large collection of printed books and we were allowed to browse his bookshelves at our leisure, though one afternoon was not nearly enough time to appreciate what was there! I, in particular, noticed that he had some publications issued in the 1980s by The Anglo-Ethiopian Society; as these are not in our Society's library there are now plans to get them photocopied and put the copies into our library stock. We all had a most enjoyable, entertaining, and instructive afternoon - well worth the travel involved in getting to Nottinghamshire - and we offer our warmest thanks to Stephen for his great hospitality.