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BENJAMIN'S BRITAIN; BENJAMIN ZEPHANIAH PHOTO EXHIBITION
Room 37a, National Portrait Gallery, St. Martin's Place, London
on until September 10 2006
Reviewed by Cardinal Cox


Write Dope on Pnuk part 12 

I've put the room number on the header to this piece, because it is a bit difficult to find, and one member of staff directed me to the wrong room. Which is a shame, as this is an exhibition of photographs chosen by the poet and writer Benjamin Zephaniah. The room also has six of his poems on the walls so you can see the connections between his work and his choices.

The small selection is divided into four themed sections and the first is about British Moslems. These include a photograph of Choudhry Qasim Ali, who first visited Britain in 1921, jumped ship here in 1942 and has now lived for over fifty years in Newcastle. Other pictures are examples of those sent home in the 1950s and '60s to show that the emigree has become a success. Amongst the more famous Moslems are Yusuf Islam and the architect Zaha Hadid.

The second section is drawn from the 'Face Me' project to highlight issues regarding facial disfigurements, either slight or significant.

'Punky Reggae Party (from the song by Bob Marley)' is the title of the third section and includes portraits of Lee 'Scratch' Perry, Ijahman Levi, Aswad, Courtney Pine, Debbie Harry and Siouxsie & The Banshees (circa 1978). Benjamin Zephaniah came to the fore through the dub/punk poetry scene of the early '80s, so this shows some of his own roots.

The fourth section is a real 'Ahhhhhh' selection of photographs of animals like lambs, kids, an orangutan, etc. Benjamin is a committed vegan so it is no surprise that he gives animals equal prominence to people.

This is a small but interesting exhibition and if you get a chance, go see it. On Thursday September 7, at 7pm, Benjamin Zephaniah will be giving a free talk about it. I'd recommend you ring if you need to get tickets though. 020 7306 0055.

 

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