Eritrea Shines at the Sotigui Awards

By: Sabrina Solomon

Eritrean television series (Machello), currently running on Eri-Tv, was nominated for the Sotigui Awards in Burkina Faso and actress Winta G/ezgiabheir was nominated in a category for the aspiring artist. Author of the series Debesay Weldu, actress Winta G/ezgiabheir, director of the series, Teamrat Yewhannes, and assistant director, Hannibal Beletsom, went to Burkina Faso to attend the event. Members of the Machelo crew shared their happiness with us. Here’s an interview with Debesay, Winta, and Sotigui photographer Samson.

I’m grateful for your time and congratulations on your success. Please tell us your feeling?

Debesay: We are so thankful and honored to get recognition at a continental level; it truly is an amazing experience. We have tried to touch and dramatize the lifestyle of the society from different perspectives through Machello and we did put a lot of effort into trying to perfect it. Hence, I consider the nomination an outcome of the collective hard work and that’s what makes it more satisfying.

Winta: I’m just filled with joy. To be nominated as an actress on one hand and to represent Eritrea on the other is literally everything that I could ask for. To see something you put so much work in to succeed and be awarded on such a continental stage means a lot to me. I can’t even find the right words to explain what I feel inside, it’s just impossible. I’m truly proud to be an Eritrean artist and to have such an amazing team with me.

Samson: I think mine is a bit different. I am an official photographer of the Sotigui Awards so I would say I had good knowledge of the event, but it was different this time. Seeing my people and my flag at the event and on stage for the first time is just beyond my ability to explain. I was happy and honored to see how they highlighted their identity through the Eritrean flag on their traditional outfits and their masks.

Debesay, which part of the series was particularly nominated for the award?

As an author and playwright, Machello is the 7th TV series of my career. Hence, I’ve been drawing more experience from the qualities and weaknesses of my writing skills and dramatization from the last six series I’ve made; this of course led to personal growth. Machello was written based on the culture and norms of the society vis-à-vis the lifestyle of the community in general. This could be one of the reasons for the movie to be nominated for the Sotigui Awards. The movie was nominated by virtue of the fact that it was able to portray different aspects of society. In addition to that, many fans keep writing us encouraging comments from the day the series began and the views on YouTube are promising.

Samson: Two of Debesay Weldu’s series’, Machello and Xexer, were nominated for this award. Machello portrays the domestic matters in urban Eritrea and it’s a series that’s currently being broadcast. The series has become a subject of discussion and comments among viewers from within the country and abroad. People have loved it.

The Sotigui is a set of different awards for artistic and technical merit in the African movie industry to recognize excellence in cinematic achievements including acting, lighting, sound, cinematography, and others. On top Machello’s nomination for best traditional series, Winta was also awarded as a runner-up for a best aspiring actor.

Winta: As an artist, this series is a different experience for me from all the other movies and characters I played before. It is a big subject that contains a delicate lesson in it. It surely shares wisdom and knowledge through its strong composition. I’ve personally learned a lot from it and I’m sure it’s like that for other people as well. No matter how old you are or the type of life you lead, this series has something to offer that will enrich your life experience and perhaps motivate you to be more attentive and careful towards certain aspects of your life.

What is the secret to your growing success and what kind of responsibility does this give you?

I’ve started acting in the early days of my life. Art is not just something in my life, it’s everything that I am. I put a lot of time and energy into it. Doing a lot of research on books, movies, and Social Media platforms is a thing I always do. To raise my knowledge and competence, I spend time with great artists and people with greater experience in the field. On top of that, I respect and cherish my work. And the outcome of my relentless hard work did pay off this time and I’m so happy about that.

It’s definitely a big responsibility. People will start seeing me as their model and I’m now a teacher to society. I should be super careful about my decisions, choices, and actions as many young fans look up to me. I want to keep going up and make my name and my country’s name shine even brighter. I have a dream that I’m trying and working to pursue. Besides my work and growth, I try to be as disciplined as possible. Disciplined in my work, respect the society who respected me, and have a healthy relationship with my colleagues. I try to maintain disciplined work habits and routines as an artist.

You met a lot of artists from bigger industries during your visit to Burkina Faso. How was that experience for you?

Debesay: we did spend time with great artists during our visit there. We tried to discuss the common problems that Africa faces in the movie industries, what we have come to achieve and what needs to be addressed and came to certain realizations. We Africans generally have rich content and ideas but have budget problems. We did exchange bigger ideas and gained things that can guarantee better achievements.

We all wore the same traditional attire which was complemented by our flag. No one else did that and it was so special. Everyone’s attention was caught and almost everyone took pictures with us. They kept asking about the meaning of our outfits and started asking about our country. They were all attracted and kept approaching us for photos.

Samson: everyone was amazed. “Wow!” was the only thing they kept saying seeing the clothes and the flag.

Winta: what touched me the most was how everyone was calling us “Eritrea”. If they want to talk to one of us or take photos with anyone of us, they wouldn’t call our names, they just said “Eritrea”. We were so proud of being Eritreans.

What benefits does Eritrea get from such continental recognitions?

Samson: Movies and music industries are keys to portray your culture and introducing yourself to the world. We have a great history, historical sites, and art deco. Introducing our country and culture to the rest of the world through entertainment industries (movies and music videos) can bring us tourism opportunities among many other things.

Debesay: not only the country but artists and the audience can be inspired to be champions and achievers. Such awards can change the opinion of society on artists for the better. It will motivate us to be on top of our games and put our mark in the highest position possible. You tell who you are and what you are made of through movies, it’s a means of communication and a doorway to meet the world. We got great feedback from the committee and the nominees in Burkina Faso.

What words of advice would you give to all Eritrean artists?

Debesay: You should always have a goal and purpose. People with purpose are bound to achieve and be successful. We just need enthusiasm and pushing through. We have promising potential in this country. We shot Machello during the covid-19 period. We can make it if we keep learning and growing putting the negativity aside. We must love our jobs and art to face the problems and shine.

We are now able to achieve this because of the collective effort of every artist and person who participated in making this series. I would love to thank every Machello actor and actress. And I would love to thank you.

Winta: I just want to motivate them to be winners no matter what the situation is and no matter how hard it gets. Keep your heads up and spirit high for success. And I would love to express my gratitude to the fans everywhere and would like to congratulate all Eritreans.