‘I saw a new born baby with wolves all around it’
A cool summer evening, cold pink wine in paper cups, a black band preparing to dance in bare feet and Bob Dylan’s voice tearing the air with the chill message of A Hard Rain’s A-gonna Fall.
The Zawose Family have lost a lot since they last danced and sang at the Festival; family members and leadership gone from Tanzania feeling the blast of climate change. But they have kept the will to make music and they are back at the Botanics to open probably the boldest show ever staged by the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.
Photograph after photograph stretches across the Fossil Garden, pictures of devastation and destruction of every human kind chronicled in images by photographer Mark Edwards to illustrate Dylan’s prophetic words written 40 years ago.
Hard Rain, our headlong collision with nature, comes to Edinburgh via the Eden Project and Steve Blackmore, the Regius Keeper of the Botanics, admits that they had some anxiety about showing such hard hitting pictures in a place people come to for tranquility. But in the real world there is precious little tranquility and what we know as the real world depends on where you live. Mark Edwards’ point is that we are heading towards a future so messed up by climate change that his images of hunger, fear, civil war, drought, and mass exodus will become every day reality for all of us unless we start to face facts.
“The future is ours to change,” he tells the silent audience on the green lawns of the Botanics.
Go and see Hard Rain, buy the book, watch the Zawose Family dance every day at 12pm, buy their CD and look again at those lyrics by Dylan. Mark Edwards heard them in 1969 played on a cassette on the edge of the Sahara after he was rescued by a Tuareg nomad. He decided to illustrate the lines of the song and set out to travel across 150 countries to photograph ‘our headlong collision with nature’. The result, including images by Sebastiao Salgado, Chris Steel-Perkins and others, is on the grass in the Fossil Garden.
My only criticism is that some lines need even harsher images. “I saw guns and sharp swords in the hands of children” could find a still more terrible reality in film of child soldiers fighting drug-crazed in African civil wars. But the exhibition has life-changing power. Buy a copy of the catalogue and use the ‘message to world leaders’ to inform your MP, MSP, and the PM and First Minister. Then lets take the message to ourselves.
‘And I’ll tell it and speak it and think it and breathe it’