Having heard the story of Eritrea and the dreadful colonization that affected its people and land, Journalist and Photographer, Donald BostrÖm, made his way to the battle fields in 1987. Mr. BostrÖm witnessed not only the war but the integrity and unity of the freedom fighters and the people, which he is most impressed by.
After all these years, he has been able to share at an exhibition last week the photos he has taken since 1987, which include the war, the referendum, the peace and landscapes of Eritrea.
- Mr. Donald BostrÖm, please tell us about your first memory of Eritrea and the time you decided to visit the battle fields?
My maiden encounter with the country started before I even came to Eritrea. At the time, two journalists who were friends of mine used to come and wrote about the country. They also took many photos of the armed struggle.
They showed me the photos in the dark room while they were printing them and explained to me everything about Eritrea and its people.
Unfortunately, one of them was killed in an ambush in Gash Barka, which was very sad to us all. After that I decided to join the other journalist and come see Eritrea. However, he was also killed in January. So, I felt I was obligated to come and continue the job they had already started. I truly believed that I could do it, especially since I almost knew everything before I even got here. Finally, in 1987, I came and visited the fields.
- What are your memories of the EPLF and the battlefields?
The Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) was very skilled, sharp and strong. As Swedish we don’t really know anything about war; war happened 200 years ago. But what fascinates me the most is the strong relationship the front had with the people. Let me tell you a story that I can’t seem to forget till today. It was in Dekemhare front. The sun was just rising and an old lady was walking slowly. By the time she approached me, she turned her head to me and raised her hand saying, “Awet N’hafash” (Victory to the Masses). Then she turned away and continued her way. Although she didn’t say anything else, I understood that the everlasting commitment of the people and the EPLF went beyond anything else. And I could always guess that they could for sure win the war. Also, as someone who has been close with the freedom fighters, I don’t even have words to express them at all. They barley had anything to fight with or to be grateful for, but their passion to free their country and people was more than anything anyone can ever have.
- Even after all the war years, you stayed in touch with Eritrea. Would you tell me why?
It is for many reasons, but most of all I like the people and their commitment to what they believe. I am impressed by their integrity. I know that they struggled during those long war years and soon again with the second war and the no war no peace situation. Now that the peace agreement has finally been finalized, I believe that a bright future is on the horizon and I think it is going to be a wonderful peaceful era.
- Let’s talk about your photo gallery.
The Swedish embassy asked me to present my collection of photos from the armed struggle till the recent times. I am happy to exhibit my photos from Eritrea for Eritreans in Eritrea. I am very curious to hear the audience’s reflections. The photos tell a time line starting from 1987 further on. It is basically the history of Eritrea and the people during the war, referendum, reconstruction, the 2nd war, peace and the beautiful landscapes. Every photo has so many sides. All those photos carry great memories for me and they make me emotional in every kind of way.
After the opening, many people visited the show and I can see they were impressed, which I am happy about. We also want to continue exhibiting those photos in different parts of the country so that many people would get to see the history of Eritrea.
- Anything at last, Mr. BostrÖm?
Well, I am happy to be here and I would like to know what people think of the exhibition.
Donald Boström is a Swedish journalist, photographer, and writer. He is known for his writings and photography relating to the Palestinian-Israeli and Eritrean-Ethiopia conflicts.