I first learned about artist Ficre Ghebreyesus after he died at the too young age of 50. His wife, poet, Elizabeth Alexander penned a memoir called Light of the World and painted such a picture of her husband that I needed to see more of his art. I’ve written about Alexander’s memoir and there’s a painting on the cover of a boat (a recurring theme) painted in jazzy blue and coral stripes. The colors and the composition depict stillness coupled with an energy and movement that compelled me to search for more. Google did not lead me astray. The images it pulled up were vibrant, some like a veritable patchwork that might have seemed too busy in any other hands, but in his, it all just worked. In the way that some art moves us and we can’t quite reason the whole why, his art spoke to me of joy and peace.
In Jewish tradition, after someone dies, it is customary to bring food to those left behind and to sit with them in a practice known as shiva. It shouldn’t be that surprising to find food associated with grief. Food is in its way a form of showing love and support that it may bring succor to the sorrowful. Named after a poetry quote of Derek Walcott’s, (“And I thought, O Beauty, you are the light of the world!”), the memoir Light of the World by Elizabeth Alexander reads like a mixed media form of artwork. Interspersed within its pages, prose poetry sidles up against essay, reporting, and finally, recipes. In this chronicle of the life of Alexander’s husband, the chef and artist, Ficre Ghebreysus, his untimely death comes across as punctuation out of place.