Seeing the image of an Eritrean Hero

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The paper focuses on the shifts in the iconic representation of war heroes of the Eritrean struggle for freedom, by studying key iconic photographs and their significance to the Eritrean national identity construction process. The article focuses on one of the most famous photographs in the country which has been related to the discourse that indebts peace and freedom of the country to the history of the nation's freedom fighters. The photograph analysed in this paper is that of Hamid Idris Awate, the man credited with starting the 30-year-long Eritrean armed struggle for independence from Ethiopian rule. This image is compared to another photograph taken at the end of the Thirty Years' War. The two images, which have a 30-year gap between them, exhibit a shift from the aspiration of individual heroes and figures towards a collective spirit of sacrifice and achievement in the development of the national Eritrean narrative. This study shows that Awate's photograph ascended to the state of a national icon owing to contextual connotations derived from its content. Early Orthodox Christian imagery is comparatively analysed as a possible factor for the potency of the compositional style in the photograph. Moreover, the essay relates the photograph to Italian pictorial representations of black native recruits and comparatively links it with the visual representation of Eritrean society by Italian colonizers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)172-180
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of African Cultural Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 4 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts
  • Music
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Literature and Literary Theory

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