[The entire tribute can be read at the blog The Chamber of Remembrance.]
There is that almost reverential hum that you associate with courthouses. The coming and going of court officials, lawyers, the bailed, press and the public. But as you shall see, the proceedings in this room are different to what transpires in the others. For this room is not for conferences toward conviction – there is no prosecuting machine here; this is a rendezvous for recognition. Because of its special status in the minds of the petitioners, it is known as the Chamber of Remembrance.
Adjudicator: Good Morning. I hope all participants are ready to begin. Let’s set the ball rolling then…. Tell me why you think Oliver Harrington deserves the recognition. Please proceed….
Josef Vertreten: Because he made us laugh. He waved a wand of smiles and grins. I’d never really thought about humour as a weapon, before I came across the work of Ollie Harrington. He generated laughter in Europe, as well as in America. Through laughter we learnt; via the curriculum of cartoons, we entered his classroom. It was like sitting at the feet, of the savant of satire….
Overall, it’s simply the appreciation of great art. With him, art was a constant classroom; continual provision, from his self-designed curriculum. We were the first to receive his teachings in colour. For it was Eulenspiegel, the East German humour magazine, that gave him the opportunity, for caricatures in colour.
He became a respected artist here, some would say a cult figure. For his defiance, as well as his art. We knew he’d been watched by the FBI here―that he’d been watched by the Stasi over there. Watched in America, due to being dangerous Red, as well as active Black. Watched in East Germany, due to his criticism of the creative and travel blockade, imposed by the ruling body, on artists within the GDR. That’s why I’m here today, so this Unknown Soldier, who fought on many fronts, can finally be recognised.
Written by Natty Mark Samuels, Founder of The African School, which was setup in September 2009. Natty is A W.E.A. (Worker’s Educational Association) Tutor; as well as a Visiting Tutor at both the Working Men’s College, London and Isis Academy, Oxford.