AU - Human Right Memorial
Leulseged Tibebu - Ethiopia
Drawings, plans, elevations
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The Ethiopian Red Terror was a campaign of urban counter-insurgency waged in the main cities of Ethiopia, notably Addis Ababa, between 1976 and 1978. The name “Red Terror” was officially used by the government, and it accurately reflects the way in which excessive violence was used to terrify the population and eliminate dissent. It was one of the most systematic uses of mass murder by the state ever witnessed in Africa. A minimum of 10,000 were killed in Addis Ababa alone in 1977, and probably a comparable number in the provinces in 1977 and 1978. A larger number were detained and subjected to appalling prison conditions and torture. An even larger number became refugees. The main target of the Red Terror was a generation of urban people with at least minimal education. That generation was lost, many physically removed with the remainder so cowed and terrified that any expression of dissent in Addis Ababa was unthinkable for a decade. The African Union Human Rights Memorial (AUHRM) project was prompted by the fact that the new African Union headquarters and conference center was built in the confines of the former central prison “Kerchele” and its infamous torture center “Alem Bekagn” (fare well to the world), a name given to it by the very victims of the place. The project idea was officially endorsed in a resolution of the African Union to commemorate the victims of the prison and other crimes in the region including genocide, slavery, colonialism and apartheid. The combination of two simple geometric elements lay the conceptual foundations for the AUHRM design. The two intersecting trapezoidal planes which extend across the elevation of the structure and the long inclined rectangular plane near the entrance. The later refers to the oppressive and most commonly self imposed dictators of the region looking down on the people of their country. The bigger image of the complete geometry metaphorically creates a ship-like profile in order to recall the past slavery ships which transported Africans from their lands into an isolated new world. This very silhouette in-part was intentionally made to resemble the military cap that the ‘dergue’ regime soldiers had on while the repeated atrocities were carried out by the time with in the gates of ‘alem bekagn’. Approaching the memorial site, one is immediately encountered with a huge red inclined wall symbolizing the typically self-appointed dictators of the region who were oppressive, totalitarian and narcissistic, forcing the people of their country through an inconceivable horror and devastation. The interior of the memorial is designed to accommodate a fire pit in the middle of the path to symbolize and psychologically create the feeling of suffocation and terror that African people had to endure through the time of the past atrocities and human right violations. As one walks through, it gradually narrows to an 80cm triangular exit, compressing and tightening around visitors, intentionally generating stifling claustrophobia, a feeling which was shared among the past victims of slavery and human right violations in the region.
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