Wednesday, January 11, 2006


In Whose Name?, a post over at Ethiopundit, is an excellent example of reading the intent of a monument ... and then reading a subversive meaning. The monument in question is the Mekele Martyr Monument, created for the memory of Tigrayans killed in an air raid by the Eritrean air force. It represents the suffering of the Tigrayans, but it contextualizes that suffering in terms of the ultimate goal of achieving a communist paradise. Their misery is less important than the role of the state in achieving progress in their name. (Definitely check out these pictures, here and here.)
The presentations of the people, their pain and perseverance against odds is stunning. The young are reassuring the old as they head into an uncertain future determined by their will and sacrifice. The colors are of the native soil and their scale is near human creating a moving whole of purpose and respect. ...

We aren't sure about the orb. Perhaps it is a representation of the divine power that rests by the throne of Marx in Communist Paradise. (That is assuming that Lenin has not yet managed the schemes necessary to overthrow him.) The point is that humanity, here the Tigrayan people who gave of their blood, sweat and tears to change the world, have shrunken before an idea. ...

What is to us the beauty and significance of the human figures in the Mekele monument are dwarfed by the self-justifying ideology of their unelected leaders. ...

The principal message seems to be that people - the individual men, women and indeed children who brought about change don't matter but what does is their nebulous destination determined by a few who allegedly speak for them. Just as profoundly offensive to us as the idea that Ethiopians by definition support the government is the idea that Tigrayans necessarily support the government.
Ethiopundit offers a different meaning, one that is closer to the truth: the Tigrayans toil for an unforgiving, tyrannical overlord who is their only hope for safety. He claims that the government uses rumors of genocide to force them to suspect other ethnic groups and remain faithful only to the government.
... the government seeks to have Tigrayans become hated by other Ethiopians so that they have no other place to turn for security and common cause than the original authors of their misery who may look and sound like them but who only care for themselves. ...

By demanding absolute conformity and national discipline of the variety of Lenin's 'democratic centralism' today's rulers want Tigrayans to be isolated and unable to look outside of the party structure for common cause with anyone.

The brutality used to try and divorce Tigrayans from their identity, history and traditions so that they could not make common cause with other Ethiopians can not be forgotten. One anecdote from an international bureaucrat looking to set up a pilot development program is revealing.

It's a very long and rich post. Go read.

On a similar note, two more article have appeared on the demolition of the Palace of the Republic in Berlin, one in the NY Times, the other in Deutsche Welle (in English.) The first article attempts to place the the East German relic as part of East Berlin--in harmony with the modern construction of that city.
Yet many of the Palace's problems could be solved by simply rethinking the barren area just to the west, where a sensitively designed new building could begin to weld the palace and its 19th-century neighbors into a coherent urban composition. And the Palace has a harmonious relationship with the 1960's and 1970's structures to the east. Seen from the base of the soaring 1969 television tower, for example, its reflective glass facade is a serene backdrop to the emptiness of Marx-Engels Platz. The uniform strip of Communist-era buildings that frames the plaza's northern edge lends the area an unexpected unity.
Replacing it with a rebuilt Hohenzollern Palace disrupts the unity of the eastern city by placing a kitsch in the middle of it. The latter article is more about the emotions of the East Berliners: how this is just another examples of the Wessies undoing what the Ossies made.


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