Doll House imagery

I’ve been on the look out for doll houses, when they are invoked as metaphors as well as when and how doll houses appear in popular culture. Just this weekend, my daughter went to Marbles Kid’s Museum in Raleigh and in their farm/agriculture display she discovered a doll house for animals. Not a barn but a pink, two-story, 4th-wall-open “house.”

Then, on the way in to school today, I was listening to a NPR Morning Edition report on the end of fighting in Libya and the death of Moammar Gadhafi. Correspondent Lourdes Garcia-Navarro spoke with some still shaky Libyans about the decimated town of Sirte, Gadhafi’s birthplace and the city where he was found hiding in a drainage pipe before, it appears, he was assassinated by his rebel captors. Mass graves have also been uncovered in the city as the chaos of daily fighting subsides and the damage of this civil war can be assessed.

One of the Garcia-Navarro’s informants, who stands in front of his bombed out home, refutes the notion that Sirte was “blessed” by Gadhafi. When the dictator came to power in the late 1960s, Sirte was a simple fishing village. Gadhafi set about transforming it into a place befitting his birth. In 1988 he moved all government offices and the toothless Libyan Parliment there. Even with all this development, it remained a town with no factories, no port, no sources of income for its citizens, completely dependent upon the generosity of Gadhafi for its prosperity. The man Garcia-Navarro interviews says that Sirte was a kind of “doll house” for Gadhafi, “an homage to his vanity.”

An great example of Gadhafi’s use of Sirte as a “doll house” is the multi-million dollar Ouagadougou Conference Centre. When built it was an ediface to rival any similar building in the West. Today it lies in ruins, footage of its capture, along with Sirte University, can be found on YouTube which shows rebel fighters blasting the front of the buildings with gunfire, unleashing their rage at the dictator on his monuments.


Exterior of Ouagadougou Conference Centre in Sirte, Libya. Image from McClatchy Blog.

Interior of Ouagadougou Conference Centre. Image from McClatchy Blog.

The Centre’s state-of-the-art facilities bought him good will from neighboring countries, and he did his best to house them in gracious and lavish style.

Sirte has been punished for its “special” standing with Gadhafi. The “doll house” has been nearly obliterated, and the remaining, very real human beings fear they too will be discarded like used toys by the new regime. “Now we are really lost,” Garcia-Navarro’s interviewee says, “we are really confused. We don’t know what to do. We don’t know if the new government will help us, if they even care about us.”



Thaier Al-Sudani. Reuters.