Review: Haile Selassie’s Ethiopia – Revisited by Hoyt Smith (Ethiopia 1962–65)

haile-selassies-ethiopia-revisited-140Haile Selassie’s Ethiopia – Revisited
photos by Hoyt A. Smith (Ethiopia 1962–65) and narration by Theodore Vestal (Associate Director PC/Ethiopia 1964–66)
$45.00 (Click for more information and to order)

Reviewed by Wayne Kessler (Ethiopia 1964–66)

Hey RPCV! Go back to your country of service: see the changes, renew friendships, take photos and bring them back home. This is what Hoyt Smith’s  Haile Selassie’s Ethiopia — Revisited encourages us to do. You never know, returning could lead to more service and adventures.

Haile Selassie

Haile Selassie

Hoyt’s photographs, along with Ted Vestal’s few words, present us with a unique book of 100 pages of historical photos from the 1960s combined with 95 pages of photos taken 50 years later. We can see what has changed and what hasn’t. The book will be most enjoyed by people who have lived in or traveled extensively in Ethiopia. Also, it will be of great interest to the Ethiopian Diaspora and their children who may not have had the chance to return to the home of their ancestors. And of course, Ethiopia RPCVs will say, “I’ve been there. I’ve seen that!” And some will even say “I met HIM.” Many memories and stories will be kindled by this book.

smith-h-castleIn addition, students of political geography will find this book a useful introduction to Ethiopia because it covers geographical places, historical sites, society and people portraits. The contents are divided into “1962–1965” and “Present Day.” A brief description in the chapter, “Ethiopia — 50 Years Later,” highlights the major changes including government leadership, education, and trends and fashions. However, the book doesn’t present a continuous historical vision of politics and wars. Nor is it a story of Peace Corps work.

Hoyt Smith taught industrial arts at an Ethiopian secondary school from 1962 to 1965, as part of the first Peace Corps group to serve in Ethiopia. Lucky for us, he traveled around taking clear, straightforward photos of everyday life. Ted Vestal, an Associate Director, Peace Corps/Ethiopia, 1964-66, wrote the introduction and historical portions of the book. A few historical photos come from the Conrad Evans family collection and other sources. Most PCVs write letters, many write memoirs, a few write novels and some, like Hoyt, document their PC time with photographs that bring their experiences back home.

I worked, traveled and photographed in Ethiopia during the same time in the 1960s, yet the images give me a clearer picture of Ethiopia, then and now, the change and the unchanged.

At the Yeferas Guks

At the Yeferas Guks

I was drawn to exciting photos of the Yeferas Guks, an equestrian sport where one group of shield-carrying horsemen is chased by another spear-throwing group. I had heard of this event, but never got a chance to see it. Thanks, Hoyt.

Ethiopia is such a complex country with many different ethnic cultures, with a rich long history, and with a great agricultural potential. Haile Selassie’s Ethiopia – Revisited illustrates this complexity.

Reviewer Wayne Kessler, an Ethiopia III PCV, taught in the Adi Teclesan Middle School, and then returned to Eritrea to live and work from 1995 to 2002. He has thousands of photos of Ethiopia and Eritrea.

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