He is one of the most loved comedians of our country. Mebrahtu Solomon, growing up as a shepherd, never did he ever think that he would lead a life making such an impression in the comedy world of our country. “There is a huge difference between those who leave this life sharing the little talent they have and those who keep their skills to themselves”, he quotes. Being the man of hard work, Mebrie (as many call him) has come a long way to be recognized as one of the few good Eritrean comedians.
Q&A proudly presents the journey of this humorist to where he is today.
- Thank you for having us, would you please tell us about you?
I was born in the Southern Region in a village named Membro. I came from a middle class family and I grew up as a shepherd. When I got to be around 18 years old, I went to join the freedom fighters just like most of the teenagers of the time. I was assigned to go to the Handiwork School in Ararb to get education until I joined the forces. It is so incredible if you think about it. We went there to fight for our freedom, but education was also very important for the freedom fighters. After I joined the forces, I lost a leg and got injured on the other leg during the wars in 1984. That is when I was back to the Handiwork School, it was a college of intellectualism. We had the best teachers at the school, beyond what could be expected. That is why we were able to learn fast even though we came with no educational background at all.
- Life after independence
Since I was newly married, I needed extra jobs to sustain my family. As a result I went in to different careers that I can say didn’t end well. Besides working as a machinists I tried to be a butcher, but my butcher career had to end at my first attempt as I was fired. Also, I tried to be a wood cutter, but as expected that didn’t went well either. Considering my disability it was challenging for me. Then I wanted to be a photographer at the previous Zoo in Betgergish. I thought it was the best additional job for me to make money. However, I started taking some very ugly and confusing photos. Some of the customers would ask me where they were in the pictures because I would sometimes take the pictures from far away making it impossible to notice. Nonetheless, after many bad pictures I was finally good and started working on different occasions until I met a man who goes by the name, Tsegai AdiTilian. He thought that I would be good in acting and gave me a part in a drama he was writing. That wasn’t new to me at all since I was part of the cultural troupe when I was in the forces. I remember, in the first drama I ever played, I acted as a radio. We didn’t have that many entertainment instruments in the field. I performed as a radio, and they touched me I started singing and make various sounds. It was a funny drama. So, I was back to art after a long time after independence.
- How important do you think natural talent is for comedy?
It is what gives life to comedy. The actor should be gifted. Comedy doesn’t always work with rules or uniforms, or else it shouldn’t be as funny as it could be. Sometimes, the things that you say or do out of passion while in the middle of a scene adds something beautiful to the work. And to be honest, all the comedians that we call the best are naturally gifted, I am not talking about me, and I wouldn’t call myself a good comedian yet. But we have some great comedians who were born to make people laugh. So yes, I think that talent is important in comedy and that is what makes it better every time.
- How many works have you presented so far?
I have worked with various artists in more than 60 comedies so far. I haven’t exactly counted my works. However, the works I have done with other artists and the works I have done alone, yes it is around that.
- Do you write or direct your works?
Not all of them, of course. But yes I do have works of my own. The first story I wrote was when I was
back in the fields. I even won a prize for it. The story was titled “I heard that they never came back”. It was a story about my family. After I left for the armed struggle, my family’s grains were burnt just before my sister’s wedding. But since we have a kind society the wedding held. My family went down from a middle class to poor and they couldn’t bear the situation, so they went away to a neighboring country. When I asked about them they told me they weren’t back. So I tried to reflect the struggle my family went through.
Again, one of our strongest assets is that we have the habit of sharing as people. We have one of the best directors in the field who are willing to share their knowledge with anyone who is interested. I don’t think you can find this in any part of the world but here. People think only for themselves elsewhere, not here. So we all help out.
- You connect with the characters easily…
Well, experience is an important subject here. But not only that, also talent. So I don’t have trouble blending in with my characters especially since I try to work with my directors. One needs good directors for the performance to be excellent. That is when a good director comes in handy.
- Any funny incidents you have come across while preforming?
One time, when we were making a movie in one of the towns outside Asmara. There was a scene where I had to yell to someone telling him that house was mine and that he wouldn’t dear pass near it. I was standing in front of a traditional house and yelling loud, while the owner of the house, a very old man, came from behind to hit me with a big stone. His wife came and held him telling him that I’m just an actor. The problem was, we dint tell the man that we were using his front yard for our movie. You have no idea how the man treated us afterwards. He supplied us with everything we needed. The Eritrean people do help a lot. We are provided with everything we could possibly need when we go to villages to make movies. We are accepted with such kindness from the start to the finish. They even leave their house for us. Do you know how much of a budget it costs if we had to build our own traditional house or even smaller things. Our people is a hoard wealth.
- What do you think the resurrection of the stage drama?
We should support those who are working hard for the resurrection of the theatrical art. It is an opportunity to the artists to upgrade the comedy level. Also it is a place where you do your best on the stage. In movies you have an opportunity to correct your mistakes. But up in the stage all, you have to do is your best and that brings your best skills.
- You have been busy with an album which is about to be released soon?
This is a work which has taken just a bit long to be released due to many problems. It has about five or more comedies. The reason it took long was because I wanted to make sure that it would fulfil all legal requirements. But it has been finalized now, fulfilling all the requirements. I hope people would enjoy watching it.
- Do you think that your kid follows your passion?
I have seven kids from a peaceful and great marriage. Nonetheless, I don’t think anyone of them is interested in the field except the youngest one. May be my five year old would follow in my steps. But then again, I want them to be good in their studies.
- Anything you want to add at last before we say good bye?
I want to thank my family for all their support, especially, my mother. who is still alive. She is one of the strongest women I have ever known. I want to thank everyone who played a part in my success. Especially Sport and Cultural Affairs. There are going to be many great movies, in the future and I hope that people will love them.