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Their Names Remain Above the Ground

It’s every Eritrean artist’s job to showcase Eritrean history for the younger generation to deeply know their identity. Poet, painter and sculptor, Tesfu ZerabrukFor Eritreans, 20th of June is an honorable day to remember all the heroes and heroines who died to bring freedom and to defend the country. Every Eritrean family went through dreadful agony under colonial rules and paid precious lives to free Eritrea. That is why Eritreans keep martyrs close to their heart and remember them on many occasions when they get together.
Today, we invite a poet, painter and sculpture Tesfu Zerabruk. Tesfu’s works focus on showcasing Eritrean history.


  • Please tell us something about your background, Mr. Tesfu.

I grew up in Asmara. Art is something that got me when I was a kid. I was influenced by a neighbor to write poems. After being inspired by him, I started to write some poems and it just came naturally. Then I started to do some sculpting, working with anything that I could find as finance was a challenge sometimes. I have been sculpting for many years and I have made many statues that are erected in public places. The statue of students taking an oath in Sawa and the women with RPG (rocket propelled grenade) are just two examples.

  • You have one of the most famous poems, Ze It Neger(better kept a secret). What is it about?

I wrote the poem in 1991, right after Eritrea’s independence. When the freedom fighters came home after the long struggle for independence, people expected that they would lead a luxurious life in their own homes and drive their own cars.
In reality, the freedom fighters had nothing to comeback to. They gave up opportunities to study and work and paid their dear lives to bring freedom for their people. But they still had to continue to struggle to live after independence. They had to cope with actual life, and I wanted to tell their story. What they had to go through was unthinkable. That is why I came up with a poem to remind everyone that the freedom fighters had spent almost half their lives in the fields and continue to do unimaginable things. People need to tell the story right and if they can they would just close the topic saying ‘it’s better for the story to be kept a secret’. The poem became popular and it has been recited in many events and quoted in books. It gives me great pleasure.

  • Most of your works focus on showcasing Eritrean history; why is that?

Eritreans share stories that seem unbelievable and yet true. Many stories of what the people went through during colonization and how the freedom fighters carried out the struggle in the fields have been told. To be honest, the Eritrean narrative is an amazing story. As an artist, I would like to immortalize all kinds of stories that happened in the country. It is every artist’s job to work on highlighting the Eritrean story in order for the younger generation to know deeply their identity and what their people went through.
I have participated in many events where I have been awarded for my works. I collaborate with the Arbate Asmara Admiration for the carnival shows. This year, I have decided to display my work which I named their names above the ground.
I wanted to put one of my poems that has the same title. I wanted to show that even though our martyrs have passed away, we have their legacies to keep alive. And having said that, their names still shine at every event and every gathering Eritreans attend. I have tried to put many of the words and quotes we use to remember them each day. They are remembered in songs, our national anthem, books, and words. They are always here with us in spirit and I wanted to show that on my statue this year.

  • Anything you would like to add on this occasion?

It is a special day for everyone; it is a day that the country comes together to celebrate its martyrs. Our fallen heroes have sacrificed opportunities, family and precious lives. As Eritreans, we have the responsibility to keep their legacy alive.
“Their names above the ground” momentum, displayed at Harnet Ave. in honor of martyrs day.

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