The 26-year -old painter, Millena Asmerom, is a self-taught artist. Doodling on a piece of paper when she was young, painting her father on an A4 paper got her to dream about becoming a great artist one day. She favors capturing feelings, and wants to share emotions through her paintings. Working her way to achieve her dreams, she is someone who works hard to be the best at what she does.
Q&A invites Millena for a brief chat.
- -How did you become interested in art?
I never knew that I had the talent. I used to doodle on the back of my books and on pieces of paper when I was young. It is when I got to high school that I became serious about art. I was influenced by a friend of mine in high school. He was an artist himself. I used to sketch and show him to get his advice. I remember that he used to be impressed with my works especially since I hadn’t taken art courses. He went to an art school and shared his knowledge with me, which helped me a lot.
Since I was in 10th grade, I have seriously worked and done exercises on my sketches and went to places where I could sketch alone. I want to mention that I had the full support of my family, especially my mom’s. She used to buy a set of an A4 paper and motivated me to keep working on my drawings. When I think about it, it is because of my family that I am a painter today.
- -Have you taken any art courses to upgrade your skills as an artist?
I am a self-taught artist. I want to be very clear that I do want to get courses regarding art which I don’t seem to be able to do until now. I wanted to go to an art institution before I went to Sawa for my matriculation exam but couldn’t due to family problems that had occurred at the time. Nonetheless, Sawa is a place of knowledge and opportunities for those who have the will to work and learn. There, we had taken an exam of sketching to join the art group, and I was one of the students who made the art group. We had an art teacher who guided us, and the students worked together and shared ideas and experiences. I can say that that group was my art school. I only knew how to sketch, never had the knowledge about colors. It is in that art group that I first learned about colors and how to mix.
Projects were given to be presented during the closing event of our school. Some of the students were working on a canvas in groups and few were given their own canvas to work on. I asked for my own canvas even though I didn’t know anything about it and I lacked knowledge of colors. I am proud to say that I was able to get a black color, which is a bit complicated to work on. I presented my canvas and was complimented a lot.
- -A self-taught artist working with numerous artists and being be able to present a canvas at a school exhibition. How was the feeling?
My dreams were coming true. Also, I developed confidence that I could do anything if I put my mind to it. I have participated in various art exhibitions in Sawa. Again, with three other female artists from my division, we were able to finish a sculpture that still stands in Sawa among other paintings. My family were proud to see that I was upgrading my skills as an artist when they visited and saw what I had worked on. It was a great feeling. Sawa is a place where I have learned a lot in every way.
- -What plans did you make when you got back home?
I wanted to get art courses. I wanted to know more about paintings, colors and technics. But, I had to participate in the making of the longest painting that made it to the world record. It was a hectic job that took more than a month which was the only free time I had before I left for Sawa to continue my certificate program for two years. However, I have also learned so much from the painters who participated at the project as well. Most of them were kids, but we had some brilliantly s k i l l e d y o u n g artists w h o we could pick from. I always take my art knowledge from working with various artists. Besides, in Sawa, few of the artists there were chosen to teach other students. I was one of the teachers and I had more than 30 students in my classes. I taught by referring to art books given to help us as the teacher’s guide, and at the same time I was teaching myself.
- -Is it difficult to cope with the artists who have gotten proper art education?
I guess not. What is important is to have talent and willingness to work for your skills. On top of that, sharing experiences and knowledge with artists is helpful.
- -What do you like to paint?
I do realism type of art. It gives me great pleasure to paint emotions. I love to work on realism type of art and I plan to upgrade my skills and work for the future as well.
- -Have you presented your work at exhibitions?
Yes. Right before I left for Sawa for the second time, a group of artists organized an exhibition and invited me to participate with them. Even though I had to leave for Sawa, my paintings were displayed at the show. Similarly, in 2014, I did another group exhibition with a friend of mine, Aida Tedros, at the Gallery of Asmara which hosted many visitors. Besides the show we did together, we also worked on different projects such as the festival events, carnivals and with various institutions. We have even won an award for a work we did on the independence celebration carnival of the Sembel Administration.
- -Challenges a female artist may face in our country?
We don’t have that many female artists in our country. One of the reasons may be our culture. We have a culture that expects less from girl. So, the sad thing is that we have many talented artists who just kept their talents to themselves, or don’t continue to work on it. If supported and acknowledged, we can be the best artists. Also, art materials are overpriced, which might affect all the artists, but it is more challenging for the female artist. However, my advice is that any girl who has the dream to become an artist or whatever she wants has got to grab any opportunity she sees and work on it. That is the only way to succeed.
- -Before we conclude our interview……
I want to remind all artist in every field, it is great to gather around and share ideas and experiences. Then we can work on something great and upgrade the art standard of our country. Also, I don’t think that all the regions have equal opportunities of art schools and studios. It would help a lot in producing a lot more artists across the country if the art schools were more evenly distributed.
Furthermore, I would like to thank God. Also, I am forever grateful to my family and friends for their support through everything. Thank you for having me on your page, Eritrea Profile.