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An iconic artist who stood up disability to realize his dreams

I really agree with the wide concept that artist are born and not created. This concept comes true when we hear the steady artistic development of Tadesse Kahsai, aka Tadd Kappa. He is one of the renowned contemporary Eritrean artists. He is today our guest to share with us his experience and what he had to go through in his life. Excerpts.

-Tell us about yourself?

My name is Tadesse Kahsai. I was born in 1962 in Asmara in the area of Akria. I completed my elementary and junior high school education at the Italian School and then I joined the Technical School. I also took my post graduate education in Remote Sense and Natural Resources Evaluation.

-What did you do after your graduation?

I joined the Ministry of Agriculture as an expert in Natural Resources Conservation.

-You are one of the renowned artists in this country and yet you are telling me you have a quite different profession. How did you manage to become natural resources conservationist and at the same time an artist?

It is a matter of time management. If you give each its time it is manageable. I give my spare time to art and the was habit I developed since I was at school.

-Tell me, how did you happen to become an artist?

When I was eight years old learning at the Italian School our teacher asked us all students to do a painting of our imagination. And I remember she was very much impressed with my painting and told me that I have the talent and that was a matter of time that I could be a good artist one day. That was the time that I identified myself that I have the talent.

-Please, go on!

From that day on wards I continued practicing at home. And through time I used to produce portraits of different Saints and sale them for about 80 cents. That incentive persuaded me to do more and upgrade my skill by my own.

-Did you take some kind of training in painting?

No, I did not. The artist Tadesse I am today, I did it by my own. Once I identified myself that I could become an artist I went on practicing and that paid off. They say practice is the mother of knowledge and with that in mind I produced myself. I have been giving 80% of my time for painting committed to reach the highest level of the profession in my capacity.

-Have you ever participated in art competitions?

In 1981 I participated at the national competition (Eritrea has been under the Ethiopian occupation at that time). At that competition I stood third and I have been a price winner. What has been special with that competition was that it helped me open my eyes wide and develop the appetite to do more.

-Have you staged exhibitions?

I staged my first exhibition when I was 16 years old. That was on the pavement in front Cathedral in 1979. Since then I have organized around 11 exhibitions some of which were after I encountered the tragic accident.  And I had a good feedback that encouraged me to do more. I also organized exhibitions in Addis Abeba, Florence and Milan, Italy, and in Brussels.

-Could you tell us a bit about the accident you encountered?

It was in 1995 that I encountered an accident while driving a motorcycle. That accident caused me spinal injury and since then I have been force to use a wheelchair.

-Sorry to hear about that!

It is God willing! In fact my disability makes me forget of what happened to me and concentrate on my profession. I didn’t allow myself contemplate on what happened to me.

-So despite of the accident and walking with wheelchair you continued your works of Art?

Disability is in the mind. If you take yourself as a handicap and could do anything no more that is when you are a handicap. If you endure your present day situation and go in your life as normal you are no more a handicap but a human being that could do anything you like. That is the process in life, never give up.

-Last week you inaugurated your book on practical guidance of painting using a pencil.

Yes I did! The book is aimed at transferring my knowledge to the young generation. Ever since I gave my full time to art I had the desire to produce more artists as much as possible. The book is, hence, part of my aspiration to transfer my talent to the young. And it is my sincere hope that the young would take something out of that.

-What is your future plan?

I will carry on with my painting. I have also finished my second book on practical guide of painting with brash. It is ready for publication when I find the opportunity. But I will wait and see the feedback of the book that I have already published.

-Anything you want to say!

I want to say that artists should respect each other and create an atmosphere in which we could work together. That is the core if we are really committed to develop art in our country. The veteran artists should not see down the young artists and the young ones should respect the veterans and always be eager to learn from them. That is the message I want to convey.

-Good Luck!

Thank you very much for having me!

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