- The African Modernist City, Asmara, Celebrates Eritrea’s 28th Independence Anniversary
Carnivals are held worldwide in a myriad of ways on different occasions. They are, indeed, great ways of bringing people together to celebrate. In Eritrea, carnivals are not very common. The few ones that come about, though, are extremely loved and memorable.
Asmara, the African modernist city, hosts an annual carnival in May; the month in which the country’s Independence Day is commemorated. On the 22nd of May, this year too, Asmara had its epic and yearlong awaited carnival. All the subzones of the city contribute in the making and exhibition of the carnival that trails its proceedings through the avenues of the beautiful Eritrean capital city. For the event, people dress to impress in traditional outfits. The colorful chiffon of the ladies is a sight to see.
For this year thirteen subzones of the central region came together to give life to an amazing carnival that lasted for more than three hours in the beautiful afternoon of the 22nd of May, 2019. The carnival was officially opened by the Governor of Central Region , Gen. Ramadan Osman Awliay, and the Commissioner of Sports and Culture, Ambassador Zemede Tekle. After the opening ceremony, members of the National Union of Eritrean Women started running and jumping through the two sides of the road, throwing flowers and popcorns, a typical rite of the Eritreans extended to welcome or greet someone. They chanted and ululated in joy. A folk song that dates back to centuries beseeching the nascent of the youth so that they “be countless armors and protect home” started reverberating from the area around City Park, an emotional song of Eritrean mothers for the sake of the young ones.
The parade started soon after. The carnival mainly highlighted, step by step, the main events and most unforgettable episodes in Eritrea’s modern history. The parade started with a comic vibe promising the audience that the carnival was sure proceeding to be enjoyable. Young, tall and light- skinned boy in his early twenties, dressed up like young President Isaias Afwerki in 1993, mimed the president’s speech of late April 1993 that he gave soon after the announcement of the referendum for the sovereignty of Eritrea. More youngsters dressed as journalists and broadcasters gave life to the scene. The well-performed act made everyone present laugh.
The Subzone of Tiravolo and their cart followed with a different act — the first trip to Sawa. The place in the lowlands of Eritrea brings thousands of young Eritreans from all over the country together in one big campground. Sawa holds a big place in the hearts of the Eritrean youth and it first started in 1994. Sawa was an arid land back then. The youth who first got there got the merit of making Sawa as we know it today. They built it on the principles of valor for generations to come and so Sawa has become a passage of rite for young Eritreans. Those who go through it assume on the role of protecting and building the nation. The torch of Sawa has been going down to generations — from the first round in 1994 all the way to the next round based in Sawa now, the 33rd round.
The next chapter in the Eritrean history book, after the advent of Sawa, was one of the gloomiest. Nineteen years back, around this time, the Ethiopian offensive took place. The following few years of the first decade in 2000 saw ruins after ruins and painful memories, which were rendered alive for a moment through shows arranged by the subzones of Godaif, Sembel, Geza-Banda and Abashawl. Once again the people stood together against all odds. Mothers sent their sons and daughters to war. They sold their jewelries to support the nation. And when Eritreans were unjustly kicked-out from Ethiopia they welcomed them back home.
As the parade went on the following carts of Arbate Asmara sub zone exhibited the resistance of the Eritrean people against foreign interference to impede the country’s national development plans. Once again the Eritrean people stood together in making their voice heard. The Eritrean diaspora united to send their message of resilience. Arbate Asmara geared up to exhibit to the resilience and unity of the Eritrean people worldwide.
On June 20th 2018, last year, President of the State of Eritrea made an announcement that Eritrea was to send delegates for the peace process. That same day is Eritrea’s Martyrs day. Akria’s show illustrated the figure of a letter: “from Eritrea to Ethiopia”.
The subzones of Idaga Hamus and Maitemenay were next in line. They prepared their artistry to exhibit the new political developments in the Horn of Africa. Tsetserat and Paradiso carried messages of good will for the growth of the youth and the development of the country.
The three-hour long procession reserved a spot for the Eritrean American actress Tifany Haddish. She showed up in a beautiful gown made with the colors of the Eritrean flag. She ululated all the way through the carnival receiving tons of affection from the public watching the carnival on the two sides of Harnet and Semaetat avenues.
According to several opinions of the people present in the event, the carnival was very well executed and was very different from those of the previous years as it exhibited recollections that “are not far-fetched in the memories of the Eritrean people”. “History is our lesson, we forgive but don’t forget… what you saw is what the Eritrean people are all about,” one college student told me.
The carnival saw the involvement of the youth. A big part of the parade was organized and executed by high school students. The parade was simple, enjoyable and expressive. So much so that one who is not aware of the Eritrean history would be able to learn its 28-year-long history in a procession of three hours.
The carnival’s main objective was “the people of Eritrea”, their union, companionship and martyrdom for the home they profoundly adulate. They hold hands for better or worst.
The carnival was scheduled to end at six o’clock for the Muslims to break the Ramadan fast. Eritreans celebrate religious rites together. When the carnival ended the next plan on the timetable of many, mostly non followers, was grabbing an early dinner at their Muslim friends and family.
Yes, the carnival showed it all but the life style of Eritreans makes it more obvious. Their history, practices and way of being makes one spot early on that they might be the most united people on the face of the earth… “This is what the Eritreans are all about!”