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Eritrean Artists Shine in Beijing Biennale

Three Eritrean artists Berhane Tsigehannes, best known by his nick name Bruno, Tsehaye Hadish and Filmon Kifle, recently returned home after a glorious trip to the 6th Beijing International Art Biennale. Just like the previous 5 ones, the Beijing International Art Biennale has proved to be a podium for versatile global cultural exchanges trough contemporary artistic exhibitions.
The theme of the latest Beijing Biennale was “Memory and Dream” and our young Eritrean artists exhibited their paintings and a sculpture, earning the admiration of many. All of their worked ranked amongst the top 50. Actually Bruno’s painting finished among the top 15 and is now splendidly residing in the National Art Museum of China. Today’s Q&A Section has presented these artists’ impressions…

About their latest trip to China…


Bruno: “We were amongst the few young artists that presented their works in the biennale. Most of the artists there were older, and thus more matured, more experienced and with more skills. So it was a bit frightening at first, but when we started noticing our artistic works were being broadly admired I began feeling proud.
Beijing International Art Biennale is a massive artistic manifestation beyond any kind of comparisons in which countless artists from all over the world exhibit their mind’s works. Personally, it has been a wonderful eye-opener and an inspiring podium.”

Tsehaye: “Ever since a child, I’ve always wanted to be an artist whose works would be accepted and admired. So the Beijing International Art Biennale definitely made that dream come true. Being among the youngest and being able to just connect with fellow artists like me was an experience I will never be able to forget. I believe cultural exchange contributes to mutual understanding between different societies. It helps understand other cultures and their history. So it was a great experience. Plus, it enriched our points of view as artists by inspiring new forms of artistic expression. Being surrounded by artistic works of countless nature and forms provided us with new insights.”

Filmon: “When we received the invitations to take part in an event of such importance trough the Chinese Embassy in Eritrea, I was stunned to say the least. I was more than happy to just be there and be immersed in the measureless immensity of the occasion.
Through arts we can understand history, social trends and cultures. So it was great to take record of the patterns of international cultural changes, as well as broadening our artistic horizons.”

Truth and inspiration within an artistic context prevail to be the most important, like a mandate of validity, not only for the creators of the art but also the spectators. When inspirations are translated in to tangible form of arts, they carry out meanings of great weight to all, while setting a path of relationships between the artist and the spectators, a lot of time having the work of art doing all of the speaking for the artist his/ her self. Well, that is at least how Bruno thinks.

The artistic works they presented in the Beijing International Art Biennale were broadly acknowledged and admired for their contemporary in-focus. They each presented a work with depth and great significance, each of them carried a massage that involves the Eritrean community. This how they explain…

Filmon: “My painting is a monochrome entitled ‘The Orphaned Beauty’. I used charcoal to express the beauty of an Eritrean woman. The theme suggests ‘dreams and memories’ so the woman in my painting radiates to the spectator a feeling that puts forward such emotions.”
Bruno: “‘Rest’ has been around since 2006, which is when it acquired local awards. I can’t really say much but I wanted to imply a feeling of tranquility, a sense of relaxation after toiling.”

Tsehaye: “I presented a sculpture. The title was ‘Let’s Fire the Music Bullets’. I simply turned an AK-47 into a saxophone.
My idea is quite clear and understandable, especially for the Eritrean community. We have gained our independence and secured our sovereignty with small military equipments but great will of being independent. We want peace.
That is why I was inspired to change the war equipment to a musical instruments, as to indicate our wishes, desires –and actually what we are as we have always been doing– we work for peace and independence.”

Before we parted, Bruno, Tsehaye and Filmon agreed to share some of the ideas they gained during their last experience in China.

Bruno: “I noticed that we can do. I mean, Eritrean artists are a power house of talents. The social context we live in is in its own an inspirational framework.
The art schools that are here, yes they do give basic knowledge about art but what we need is institutions that strengthen the little knowledge we got on our own.

You know, during the biennale it occurred to me that we do things and we do them good but we are not doing a great job in transferring the talent/expertise to others. Artists just get to where they are instinctively. So what we want is higher education so as to have artists capable of transmitting their knowhow’s to younger generations. On the 8th of October we will be holding a conference in which we will share our experiences, and we will most definitely stress on the notion of higher artistic education.”

Moreover, Filmon and Tsehaye reminded the need of an association that responds to the needs of Eritrean artists, and to furthermore strengthen the artistic talents in Eritrea. They are convinced that if opportunities are worked on, Eritrea will secure an important place in the world of arts.

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