Open 11am to 8pm
Royal Festival Hall (Level 5), Southbank Centre, LondonOpen Tuesday - Sunday from 11am to 8pm
Artwork by Paul Peter Piech. Words by W.H. Auden. © the Estate of Paul Peter Piech
under this sha-manic sky
with its favourable spirits and forks of lightning
why do unknown numbers
dance into obscurity?
Armstrong! oh Armstrong!
are there multi-coloured cauldrons
in the centre of your iris?
how sublime your iris!
in this most totemic of pressure-cookers
no Thomas Edison
no Kanaung prince
no Thein Pe Myint
no Jack London
no Vincent Van Gogh
no Paw Oo Thet
no Saya Zawgyi
no Rabindranath Tagore
no John Lennon
no Myoma Nyein
no collegian Ne Win
no Robert Redford
no Harold Robbins
no Ahtoutthaw Hla Aung
no Thakhin Aung San
no nothing is there
(in the cauldron of dreamtime)
how these bubbling mists
of a jungle imagination
are demented and embellished
by the red of
Helpston c. 1820
With their golden notebooks
they stop to watch him carting hay;
the embossed enclosures
of the carriages they step from
wait to bear them home.
They’ll celebrate the dignity of labour
from safe seats, the prospects
they return to, stable their horses,
hear the harness loosed and jingling
like coins of the realm.
It will have been a profitable day
to do nothing about it, besides
what is there to be done?
Conscience sleeps in the sun,
the poor being always with us.
He watches the future drive off
in its shining hatch-backs
down Heritage Lane
then, seized by love and anger,
takes up his pen to write.
Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high, there's a land that I heard of, once in a lullaby
In her deepest sleep, Madam Lisette Talate returns to Chagos,
leaving the Mauritian slums, where so many continue to follow
her example, standing in protest against the lies and chaos
orchestrated by the officials, who claimed there were no
indigenous people on Diego Garcia, Peros Banhos,
none on the sibling islands of Salomon, Egmont, and so
the islands were ‘swept and sanitised’. An albatross
was spared, and the order given: ‘a few Man Fridays’ must go.
The slave ancestors who fished, loved and prayed across
the centuries, the generations who dried the copra, coco,
extracting oil from the kernel of the nut, even the boss
of the copra plantation struggled to see over the rainbow.
On the main island of Diego Garcia, the US base, Camp Justice
squats. The Chagossians are still chanting, Rann nu Diego
thirty, forty years later, fighting for the right to return. Their loss
is unimaginable, these guardians of the Chagos Archipelago.