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(Süddeutsche.de) Asmara - The Sleeping Beauty

Posted by: Semere Asmelash

Date: Saturday, 27 October 2018

October 26, 2018, 6:50 pm

Architecture

Asmara - The Sleeping Beauty

Central Post Office, Asmara - © Günter R. Wett
(Photo: Günter R. Wett)
By Laura Weissmuller

You have to look carefully, because with the first look you are immediately in Italy, somewhere south of Rome: the hall with the marble columns and the large skylight, the individual switches and of course the long standing desk to fill out complicated forms - more Italianità is actually Not. But the post office from 1916is located in Asmara, the capital of Eritrea, and at the second glance, the people in the photo, as they use the building, it is a daily occurrence.

Exactly this second look is in the exhibition "The Sleeping Beauty" in the Tyrolean Architecture Center in Innsbruck. The curators Peter Volgger and Stefan Graf want to deconstruct the nostalgic image of "Bella Asmara". "Long was told only a part of history," said Volgger - and kept the colonial perspective: Galt the capital of the former Italian colony after their "rediscovery" in the nineties, but above all as a grandiose time capsule, in which one of Italians built city utopia from the thirties. Once again, those who use the buildings, the futuristic gas stations and factories, the fashionable bars and cinemas are blotted out.

The exhibition is different. On the basis of photographs, plans, but also films she shows how the people of Asmara appropriated their city after the Italians were driven out. In fact, the postcolonial view is much more exciting than any nostalgia. For through the war with Ethiopia, the Eritreans have reinterpreted their colonial heritage for themselves and used it for their own identity formation, the city has been hyped up as a national symbol.

This strong appropriation was also the reason why Unesco decided last year to declare Asmara a World Heritage Site - even though one of the largest architectural ensembles of modern times was built by colonial rulers. If Eritrea really opens now through the peace treaty with Ethiopia, which both countries signed this summer, tourism will not be long in coming. It is all the more important to choose the second, postcolonial view of Asmara.

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