Negus: Conquering Lion Needs A New Pope

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Pope-Lee-Perry

Simone from the Palm Wine blog recently launched a crowd funding campaign to bring Lee “Scratch” Perry to his Italian hometown and help exorcise its imperial demons. Simone takes a second to tell us about his exciting project:

Apart from my Palm Wine project, I am part of Invernomuto art group together with Simone Trabucchi (owner of the record label Hundebiss). We founded Invernomuto in 2003 and since then we have been working as a duo. We make works without a set format, with an emphasis on the collapse and subsequent mixture of different languages. Our research ranges from the production of single-channel videos and installations to the staging of events and site-specific projects.

Our last project is called Negus and was inspired by a historical event dating from the Italian Fascist period: in the colonial era, after the conquest of Abyssinia, effigies of the last Negus of Ethiopia, Hailé Selassié I, were burnt in the square of our hometown Vernasca, a small village located between Milano and Bologna. This episode coincided with the return of one soldier from the colonial war.

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This way, Hailé Selassié I, the Black Messiah for the Rastafarian belief, was burnt a few kilometres from where we were born and raised. Our biography and the history of our Country enter in resonance with a wider cult developed in the opposite side of the planet, something that cannot pass unnoticed. Also, it’s important to consider the fact that the oral memory of this event gave rise to an expression in local dialect, in which a “Negus” refers to a flamboyant, scruffy, and ridiculously clumsy individual. Negus project, therefore, relate itself with historical facts, cultural ghosts and political scenarios of the recent past.

How did we decide to tell about all these levels? Through a series of short film versions, retracing the Jamaican tradition of versioning.

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The first version of Negus, titled Negus – Duppy Conquerors, was recently realized and presented in Bologna in the occasion of Premio Furla 2013, an italian award for young artists. In this version, we turned the square of Vernasca, where the fact actually happened, into a movie set, constructed around three elements: a pyramid shaped war memorial, a Sound System (the italian Prince Healer), an airbrushed aluminium sheet bearing the effigies of Hailé Selassié I and a fire machine. This set up was inhabited by three masked figures, the Duppy Conquerors, who were supervising the square, waiting for the next version to come.

According to history, Bob Marley was complaining to Lee “Scratch” Perry that he was too “successful” and was being plagued by hangers-on and leeches, referring to them as duppies in the context of ‘human vampires’. Lee Perry apparently consoled him by saying, “Look, we’ll sort this out – we are duppy conquerors.”

The second version of Negus will host, in the same set in Vernasca, a very special guest as unusual narrator, as a master of ceremony, as a spiritual guide: the legendary Lee “Scratch” Perry.

Lee Perry burned his own studio, the Black Ark, in 1983. Actually the cause of the fire is still disputed, it’s not clear if it burned by accident or by Perry himself; in an interview by David Katz in 1999, Perry declares “Of course it’s me who burn it. […] Somebody was messing with my energy, so it wouldn’t be clean anymore, so I throw gas in there and light it” (D. Katz, People Funny Boy, Omnibus Press 2006).

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Fire has an important role for Lee “Scratch” Perry and so is for the historical fact that originated our Negus project. For this reason we want to have him, specifically, to guide this epiphany; the fire which burned the effigy of Hailé Selassié I at the end of the 30s will born again through Perry and his own past and future history.

To bring him to Vernasca and to cover all the logistics and productive costs, we launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo. Help us make it happen!

Simone Bertuzzi / Palm Wine / Invernomuto


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