ITALIAN MEMORIES

Eritrea

   On 9 July 2018, after decades of war, the Prime Ministers of Eritrea and Ethiopia ended the conflict and signed a joint declaration to start a new era of peace and friendship. In the midst of many conflicts around the world, this was a wonderful and unexpected news.

I had the opportunity to visit Eritrea six months before the agreement, when the country was still fighting at the border against neighboring Ethiopia.

What stroke me mostly was the  strange atmosphere of Asmara, the  Eritrean capital, so unusual  for a country in  conflict for such a long time. I was amazed by the quietness of the forgotten African city and I was drawn to the iconic atmosphere of Italy in the 1930s, when Eritrea was an Italian colony during the Fascist period. Trying to forget the long war at the border, during my trip I started to document everyday life  in the very heart of the city along and around the main street: Viale della Liberazione (now Arnett Avenue), a wide avenue lined with palm trees and ancient Italian buildings.

I walked and saw old postcards of the Italian province in the 30s , 40s and 50s. While the women had mostly worn the clothes of the Eritrean culture, older men, followed the old Italian rituals : walking up and down well dress up passing through the flower gardens of the ancient theater, before  attending  the mass in the Catholic Cathedral.  Having their hair cut,  having a delicious espresso at the bar served strictly with a glass of water on the side before entering the  majestic “Cinema Impero” showing  its rationalist architecture and its decadent interiors. I was amazed by the  kindness of old people who still spoke  Italian with a touch of elegant Italian style in their soul, a style  that had not disappeared after almost 80 years. Then, in the well-tended Italian cemetery, I was taken back to the old war where too many boys left their broken lives on African soil in those dark and distant years.