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Segen Art Gallery: A School of Empowerment

By :- Simon Weldemichael

I was invited by a friend who is an admirer of art, and is also very much interested in the development of art education, to visit Segen Art Gallery. The art gallery is located right about the curve that connects Fiat Tagliero Building with the Semaetat Avenue. I was thrilled to see that it wasn’t just an art gallery, but also a school that gives priority to young women with hearing disabilities and financial problems. The institute used art education as a vehicle for motivation, innovation, empowerment, engagement and then integration.

Segen Art Gallery offers students, mainly the females with hearing disability and socio-economic problems, a solid foundation in drawing, painting, ceramics, design, weaving and other works of art. As an art school, it provides a two-year training through intensive study of technique, theory, concept, and hands on approaches in studio work. The school provides both certificate and diploma programs.

The training center was founded by artists, mostly veteran freedom fighters, with the intention of helping the disadvantaged sections of the society. Artist Demoz Russom, a painter, stage designer, makeup artist and a teacher, is among the founders of Segen Art Gallery. He recalled when a group of artists came together to establish a school and remembered that “we first decided to train young students who contracted HIV from their parents with the objective of giving them hope and help them discover the meaning of life and aesthetics.” The school helped the students to pick up important life skills from such as creativity, confidence, innovation, collaboration, and perseverance among others.

Many believe that art education harnesses creativity, patience, and other vital skills from the students. In a technology and knowledge driven modern society, innovation is a key engine for progress. Art education plays a significant role in fostering the skills and attitudes that are highly required for innovation beyond artistic skills. Art education is often said to be a means of developing critical and creative thinking. Segen Art Gallery is making a concrete and tremendous contribution to the young women living with financial problems and disability by creating a positive impact through technical skills, skills in thinking and creativity, and behavioural and social skills.

Achieving success in art may be attributed to talent, determination, and patience. For low income and women with disability, the financial obstacles often prove to be insurmountable. Segen Art Gallery answers this serious problem by mobilizing resources from various sources to equip the disadvantaged women with the necessary skills so that they can participate, work and integrate in the society. Artist Demoz Russom explained that the mission of the institution is “to produce young artists and help the poor and women with disability to lead their lives through art.” The humanity aspect of this mission is supportive to build a community of creative citizens who are groomed for success in life.

The commitment of Segen Art Gallery to help young women to overcome poverty and disability deserves appreciation and special attention. Artist Demoz Russom added that “Our objective is for our sisters and daughters to join to the world of work and make money for their living. We teach them free of charge. We teach them to be creative, innovative and productive citizens.” His confidence seems well-founded. Currently, thirty five women with hearing problems are already taking the first year of training. Throughout the two-year program, these women receive all classes free-of-charge, and the institute is working to provide them sewing machines during graduation.

Segen Art Gallery is committed to making sure that the students understand that the discipline and focus that they are going to learn is not just to design, paint or draw. The institute invites business and market experts to teach them how to commercialize their products.

Many of the women students that are learning at Segen Art Galley have not had the opportunity to explore beyond their neighborhoods. Because of their hearing difficulty they do not attend the formal education with their peers. Their level of education does not exceed junior school. To bring them into a community of learners and skilled artists who are passionate and have respect and a sense of dignity is an eye opening experience. Segen Art Gallery is a good example in that there are more possibilities than we thought would be imaginable, and that education and training are the best instruments of empowerment and achievement in life.

I was fascinated by the quality and range of drawings made by the women. The sensitivity, richness of perception, and ways of incorporating colour into artistic work is fantastic. The skills acquired hitherto will have a positive effect on their work as future designers, drawers, and creative artisans. Segen Art Gallery provides important skills that effectively supplements their impaired hearing. The young women with hearing problems have acquired skills to interpret what they observe, communicate what they think and make what they imagine through art. The quality of art, craft and design education of Segen Art Gallery can be seen in the performance of its students. Demoz Russom, opined that “It’s an incredible feeling to know that you helped someone be the best that they could be.”

Segen Art Gallery is also offering art education to high school students with nominal fees. The institute encourages the young boys and girls to demonstrate positive behaviors, including improved academic performance and participating in extracurricular activities. Young students can do much better if they receive the art education. Receiving additional education encourages them to increase participation in extracurricular activities, develop positive habits and spend more time in schooling. Therefore, art education is helpful in producing engaged and empowered youth.

Besides that, in collaboration with the association of Eritrean designers, Segen Art Gallery is offering design training to selected women that have financial problems to update their skills. Here, the objective is to introduce the young women with the nine ethnic groups of Eritrea’s traditional attire so that they can incorporate them into modern design. The Eritrean society have long history of incorporating aesthetic choices into their everyday lives.

The art education offered by Segen Art Gallery to the young women is inculcating important values such as dignity, equality, and solidarity. Besides, teaching the technicality of different arts, gives the targeted groups the opportunity to learn to live with disability. Every abled citizen must extend support to encourage institutions such as Segen Art Gallery to expand their education so as to absorb many young people with disability and turn them into productive citizens.

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