/28 Leisure Time

Anoek Steketee

Dream City

Dream City – named after an amusement park in Iraq – is the result of a journey through the constructed world of amusement parks. Between 2006 and 2011, photographer Anoek Steketee and writer Eefje Blankevoort visited amusement parks in Iraq, Rwanda, Lebanon, Israel, the Palestinian Territories, Colombia, Indonesia, China, Turkmenistan
and the USA.

Although the cultural, sociological and political context of each place differs, the parks’ uniform appearance forms the universally recognizable backdrop. With their twinkling lights, fairy-tale setting and perfectly manicured gardens, the parks all derive their value from the universal and timeless human need to escape from daily reality in a communal, constructed space.

During their travels, it became increasingly apparent to the authors that an amusement park is more than simply a place to have fun. Its origin, location, theme and the kind of visitors it attracts say a great deal about the socio-political relations of the country in which it is situated. Behind the innocent, light-hearted facade lurks another, more serious reality.

The grounds of Dream City in Iraq, as an example, used to be a military base for Saddam Hussein’s troops until 1991, where hundreds of Kurds were imprisoned and executed.
Today, the amusementpark is the ultimate symbol of freedom from and victory over Saddam Hussein of the Kurdish people.

In Turkmenistan, Turkmenbashi’s World of Fairy Tales, is named, like almost everything in the country, after the Great Leader. The amusementpark, known locally simply as 'Disney' – is home to 54 attractions, all centred on the theme of Turkmen identity and fairy tales. With this, the amusement park was a clear continuation of his identity policy.

The small, walled amusement park Luna park Beirut in Lebanon has always been open, even during the bloody civil war of the '70s and '80s and the Israeli attack in July 2006. In the summer of 2007, the park survived a bomb explosion that killed 11 people. Two weeks after the explosion, the park reopened to the public

In her work, Anoek Steketee explores the boundaries of documentary photography and the way in which different realities can coexist. In Dream City, she does not show the archetypal amusement park scenes of crowds, movement and enjoyment, but rather looks for tranquillity and alienation in her images of employees, visitors and attractions.