On Pushkin Monumnet in Eritrea
Alexander Pushkin statue in Asmara (Credit: Adel Ibrahim)
By Haile Bokure
During the last quarter of the last Century, the Italian colonial masters' plan was to build a little Roma at the very heart of Midri Bahri. Following are the main schools, stadium, cinemas and opera houses called after the names of their artists, statesmen and poets:-
- Cicero was a great sophist in Roman antiquity. The Romans were fond of gathering at a stadium to hear the speech of great orators such as Brutus in "The Tragedy of Julius Caesar" by William Shakespeare. In his honor, the stadium was erected on Asmara-Keren road. However, recently I learned that the affluent folk who used to live in Asmara during the last quarter of the last century called the stadium after their family name: "Cicero."
- Michael Angelo Bonaroti and Raphaleo Sanzio were great artists in whose names the two famous elementary schools established, and ones being in mid town of Asmara overlooking the American Embassy which was the site Ethiopian Consular office headed by Dejamatch Nesibu Zeamanuel in whose name the street was called after the Federal era.
- Nicolas Machiavelli, the great Italian statesman who was and still is famous for his masterpiece " The Prince." The Principe or this Scuola Media (Middle School) which is called after the name of his book highlighting a rule based on intimidation and deception.
- Dante Alighieri, the Florentin was one of canonized men-of-letters who refined the Italian language to majestic height. The Cinema Dante like Odeon and Cinema Asmara were originally opera houses or reading and symphony arenas where the upper class Italians used to entertain in their exclusive social world located at Campo Restrittivo (restricted camp or the later corrupted word Kombishtato).
- Cinema Impero (Cinema Imperial) was built in Memory of East African Empire including Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia by Duce (Mussolini).
With this mind, instead of building Pushkin Monument around Maj JaHjah, it was plausible to name Odeon after his name as it fits his great contribution in world literature. For Odeon is derived from Greek word dealing with the art of poetry, dance and music. Please read the following poem. Other than that, a primacy of recognition should be extended to our native citizens who contributed a great deal in performing arts, literature and sports etc.
Charity begins at home indeed!
Verses to Pushkin, No. 1
Scourges of gendarmes, god of students,
Loathed by husbands, loved by wives;
Pushkin as a statue? Never!
No Stone Guest he, with his jibes,
Flashing teeth and saucy grin. What,
Pushkin as Commendatore?
Critic nagging, finger wagging:
' But (sob) what of Pushkin's fine
Sense of measure?' You forget his
Sensual pleasure, as the waves
Pounding granite! can his salty
Pushkin ever be a text-book?
Legs a-straddle by the fireplace
Warming them: or bounding up,
Leaping on the Tsar's own table!
Self-willed African, the sheer
Coming genius of his age- this
Pushkin in the role of tutor?
Black's ingrained; it can't be whitewashed,
Useless to apply the brush.
Russian classics, yes; but Pushkin
Called the Afric sky his own,
Roundly cursed the grim Neva'; no,
Pushkin's surely no arch-Russian.
Let us too pronounce a speech in
Honour of his jubilee:
'Praise the swarthy, red-cheeked poet,
Handsome does as handsome is;
None more lively, more alive than
Pushkin!' He- a mausoleum?
Sergeant-majore-like, they bellow:
'Pushkin present- atten-shun!'
Where's the hellfire pouring from his
Lips, or where the coarse abuse?
Pushkin, nature's rebel- how can
Thin -lipped dons claim Pushkin mantle?
Little midgets! Ah, how dare you
Brand that forehead- olive-blue,
Soaring, boundless- desecrate his
Brow with faded tinsel crowns,
Symblols of those dreary virtues-
'Golden mean' and 'middle way' ?
'Pushkin "toga", Pushkin: "cassock",
Pushkin "yardstick", Pushkin: "peak"...'
Pushkin, Pushkin, Pushkin - noble
Surname! Noble as a damned
Tinker's curse, you squawking parrots!
By marina Tsvetaena (1937), Translated by Michael Glenny.
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