When Alberto Vascon and Nicky Di Paolo invited me to write a foreword to their atlas Tropical Zoom, I felt honoured but at the same time hesitant. The book is a collection of excellent photographs of Eritrea and Ethiopia which show places that have almost never been visited or photographed, accompanied by a concise but significant text. As an Ethiopian by birth, married to an Italian, I was enthusiastic about the book, though aware of the responsibility of writing a foreword to this testimony of what the Horn of Africa has to offer the visitor. I think Alberto and Nicky have created a precious book, which in one big embrace not only shows the beauty of the Horn but also instils a longing in the reader.
Tropical Zoom recounts a journey of initiation that proceeds from Massawa, through the Dahlak islands and the plains and mountains of Eritrea, into the many historical and natural sites of Ethiopia. The book is not a mere tourist guide because the text has a strong affective component, nor is it a travel book because it is suffused with love for the Horn from the first page to the last. This sentiment makes the book very creative in character.
The authors were born and lived in the Horn, but differ from many foreigners who have spent much of their lives in Africa. Alberto and Nicky have observed and photographed nature with great contrasts, from areas luxuriant with flowers and animals, to inaccessible deserts, mountains higher than The Alps and unique depressions, areas uncontaminated by the human hand. Their odyssey covers thousands of kilometres in which they photographed vibrant nature in the extraordinary complexity of the seas, the gentle landscapes of the lakes, the violent harshness of rugged mountains, the ambas, sentinels of the plateau, and the disquieting volcanic deserts.
Their documentation of the various ethnic groups in Ethiopia is fascinating – a country three times the area of France with great diversity of customs, costumes and cultures – and a testament of inestimable human richness. Alberto and Nicky are great enthusiasts of the history, customs and costumes of the Horn. This emerges clearly in their photos and reportage of the remains of the ancient civilisation of Axum, the castles of Gondar, the cliff churches and monasteries. The images of ancient Abyssinian art in the churches, monasteries and antique shops are quite moving. Also, in these photos, one perceives the capacity to communicate subtle as well as deep sensations, as in the case of the vibrant colours of the extraordinarily refined sacred paintings.
These two passionate explorers set themselves the task of expressing a glowing and overwhelming homage to Eritrea, Ethiopia, their peoples, and everyone in the world who cares about the Horn. The photos in Tropical Zoom take the breath away and enchant the heart. I was deeply moved by this book.
It should be mentioned that the book has no political connotations; its only motive is to give people an idea of Eritrea and Ethiopia and to raise money for the children of the Horn of Africa. This noble gesture is typical of the authors. All proceedings from the sale of Tropical Zoom will go to the war orphans of the Horn.
We Ethiopians and Eritreans thank Alberto Vascon, Nicky Di Paolo and Bianca Cremonesi, Alberto’s wife, who also played an explorer’s role in the publication of this book. We will not forget this generous gift.
© Il Corno d'Africa
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