Thursday, December 11, 2014

No Place for Triumphalism

As I took this photograph, I wondered who died here.  On the road from Cuito Cuanavale to Menongue there were many such wrecks.  Someone, somewhere, is likely to know the story behind each one.  A story likely to include fear and death and grief.

I tried to be respectful of these places. Particularly as I was part of an invading army all those years ago.  Someone's son or brother or husband died here. 

I was reminded of the need to tread lightly when I was showing some slides to an audience which included former liberation movement soldiers.  Afterwards one man told me that he had lost a close family member during an ambush on this road.  He was in an APC like the one in this picture.  This could have been the very vehicle in which he died.  The man said the photograph had upset him, raising feelings of grief and perhaps the trauma of his own war experiences.

For those of us who have returned to the war-places of our youth, it is good to remember that this is no place for triumphant poses next to the burned out wrecks of 'enemy' vehicles.  Instead, these should be places for deep, human reflection.