Optimist Architect | Sephora Woldu


Optimist Architecture in Eritrea
24″ x 24″

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Optimist Architecture in Eritrea is a fictional book by fictional author Daniel Tesfu, a character from the forthcoming Eritrean American sci-fi film Aliens in Eritrea (dir. Sephora Woldu). The cover art represents two periods of optimist architecture posed by Tesfu: the thirty years of internationally recognized war and subsequent referendum vote for sovereignty (1963 – 1993), and the first thirty years of Eritrea’s independence (1993 – 2023). Tesfu argues that the year 2023 is critically important in Eritrea as it will be the year that the nation is as old as its defining war. He predicts this milestone will be the start of a third, uncharted period of optimist architecture. The three-line patterns signify the bend of an armed struggle, the stillness of transition, and the variable possibilities of the future.

Sephora Woldu is an Eritrean American writer/filmmaker based in San Francisco. Named by Filmmaker Magazine as one of the 25 New Faces of Independent Film, her work has won acclaim with audiences including the American Film Institute, New Orleans Film Festival, Brooklyn Film Festival, Marfa Film Festival, Oslo Independent Film Festival, Columbia University, Museum of African Diaspora, and Eritrean community centers from Philadelphia to San Jose. Sephora received the Craig Brewer Emerging Filmmaker Award (Indie Memphis), Balalaica Filmmaker Award (Moscow Indie Film Festival), and the Special Jury Prize for Bold Innovation (RiverRun International Film Festival) for her Tigrinya/ English debut feature-length narrative film, Life is Fare. Sephora also co-founded the Asmara Indie Film Festival, studied graduate architecture, and currently works with the global design firm IDEO because, among other things, she is full of surprises.

“As a first-generation Eritrean American, I am fascinated by the experiences of a growing Eritrean population worldwide– those living inside and outside of Eritrea– and the disconnect that naturally forms from our distance with each other. Culture adapts with the movements and locations of its people, and my work is a cultural response on how to reframe history keeping, history seeking, and unbridled optimism as an embodiment of tradition, not a departure.”  -Sephora Woldu


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