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  • What it is… What it will be… and, What a Night!

I can strongly argue that Cinema Asmara has never been lit as it was on the evening of 7th June 2018. The typical atmosphere of Asmara and its plentiful evenings and mid days dedicated to macchiato followed by the weekends of football matches played in the cinema are always reflected in the iconic building of the city. But let me rephrase, Cinema Asmara has never been literally lit as it was on that special night.

That night was the night of SHAMOT. Looking from the outside the staircase to Cinema Asmara looked like the staircase to heaven. With lights lit on both sides of the staircase and the beautifully decorated garden, made many girls wish to have their wedding there. The dreamy display of the Cinema was eye-catching and residents of Asmara and tourists had their phone cameras all aimed at Cinema Asmara. Meanwhile, Eritrean music starts, actors, directors, models, art critiques and invited guests were scaling up through the oval stair case of Cinema Asmara, making remarkable poses and flashing bright smiles in the red carpet.

The city of Asmara is most scenic in the evening hours. Its inhabitants have made a habit of stepping out of their homes to the city center for the iconic tradition of cappuccino and cake while chatting in cafes or bars and nuts cheering favored football clubs in bars. The sight of people calmly walking in the avenues of Africa’s modernist city is, for an outsider, an overwhelming sensational sight not to miss. People of Asmara don’t rush in the evening. If they’re out, it means they are literally out to hang out with friends and family.

Close your eyes and picture everything I just described and add the description of Cinema Asmara portrayed above. What a scene, right? It is like a scene from a classic movie. May the merit go to all who made the night of SHAMOT as epic as it was that night. For a while people started asking if they were really in Asmara or at the Oscars.

The ceremony started at eight in the evening but celebrities took their time to make their way in. Once the show started, the security guards closed the gates of Cinema Asmara. The capicity of Cinema Asmara couldn’t be more than a couple of hundred, but the people outside the gates who wanted to sneak in or were, was way more bigger number than the guests inside the cinema.

SHAMOT is the name of a tropical tree commonly seen perennially on the highlands. The comettee of this program chose the name Shamot to symbolize the perennial fllow of works of art that have been, in the past couple of years, dominating musical trends of the horn of Africa.

Artist, writer and director, Efrem Kahsay, aka Wedi Kuada, said that recently, Eritrea’s works of art have been widely spread in social media networks matching the taste of many. He explains that despite financial hurdles artists face, singers and actors have always strived to present the best of their artistry with the small means they have. In the same vein, writer and director Misgun Zerai, aka Wedi Feradai, strongly advocates that Eritrean artists have been and still are victims of several shortages, but, they have been brave and passionate enough to produce artistic marvels that, as we see now-a-days, dominating several charts and gaining wide spread distribution on on-line channels on the internet.

Therefore, SHAMOT is not an award. It is a program that just took its very first step towards assisting the production of Eritrean art. The committee and organizers, in partnership with P.F.D.J Cultural Affairs, designed SHAMOT to be a program that serves as a nourishment and encouragement to Eritrean, artists who, never cease to make miracles.

Eritrea is, indeed, a place of art and creativity, but with almost no enforcement of artistic patent for copyright nor any real and proper entertainment companies. Eritrean artists and their incredible dedication, have been prey to illegitimate channel owners in YouTube. SHAMOT aims to put platforms where Eritrean made works of art find their worth.

SHAMOT, the program, includes sections of specialization for video clips or music videos, short films, feature films and painting. The vision is for SHAMOT to serve as a center of direction in order to boost artistic production in the country.

As a very first step, though, SHAMOT had an awarding ceremony on the evening of June 7th in Cinema Asmara, which focused on video clips and short films. The video clip awards had five categories: best song, best photography, best editing, best directing and best video clip. These categories were devised to analyse the cinematographic and technical skills vested in this year’s video clips. The award for best song went to ‘Kinirakeb Ina’ of Kalaab. This song has been getting millions of likes in social networks. Director of this song’s video clip, the renowed comedian and now an eminent director, Minus, got the award for best directing for the same song. Kaalab’s second most loved song, this year, ‘Kandoye’, was given the award for best editing. While Kahsay Berhe’s ‘Lemlem Das’ got the award for Best Editing.

The nominees for best twenty and top ten were also put in spotlight. The selection of the best ones must have been hard as most of the works display great amount of creativity and expertise. Misgun Zerai and Efrem Kasay, also members of the committee, asserted that the experience of getting learn, one by one, the composition of thousands of video clips was an experience that overwhelmed them. Looking at the number of powerful video clips that dominate the attention of millions of people, one can surely feel assured about the bright future for the Eritrean music industry.The awarding of feature film was less elaborated, as the top four films were awarded based on the public’s general opinion and viewership.

The experts who were given the responsibility to asses this year’s artistic works are big names of the Eritrean entertainment circle.

An award ceremony of such kind is not the first in Eritrea. But having one after an extended break surely did excite the public and all of the professionals involved in music and video production. Most of the artists at the occasion called for the P.F.D.J Cultural Affairs to pay more attention and invest more to encourage the artistic production.

A home-made work of art, whatever its nature, is a fast way to safeguard identity. Putting out as many productions as possible in the regional and international market is a smart way to show case what Eritrea is about. SHAMOT is not a replacement of awards such as Raymok, but a vision many artists made posiible. That’s why it is important to mention that the expenses made to make the evening as dazzling and meaningful was, mostly made by the from artists themselves. The committee members, announcers, stage designers, decorates and all the others who joined hands in the making of SHAMOT were not paid either. Warsay Enterprise and P.F.D.J Cultural Affairs were the major stake holders. SHAMOT was a spiritual adjoining of Eritrean artists aimed at giving a start to the strong future the artists believe they can all get to. As much as they believe, so does the Eritrean public, eager to make the artistic brand ‘Made in Eritrea’ global.

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