Teklit Zecarias at 2012 Eritrean Festival, Washington, D.C.
Issayas: Briefly, tell us about yourself?
Teklit: I was born in the ancient nation of Eritrea, located along the Red Sea in East Africa, in 1980. At the age of one, my family moved from their rural home to Asmara. I started drawing when I was young. I would use one side of my school book for schoolwork and the other side for drawing; I also loved modifying different shapes out of recycled materials and clay. I was 15 when I went to my first art training in the summer of 1995. Most of our teachers were artists who fought for Eritrea’s independence. As soldiers, during the war, they kept their love for art. This made me appreciate all the talent they had to offer and inspired me to keep art in my life, even during hard times. That training compelled me to seek furtherart education. I studied art, in 1997, with three Chinese Professors in Asmara Art School. And once my family migrated to the U.S., I took what I learned there to receive my BA in studio and graphic design, from Lipscomb University, in Nashville, Tennessee.
Issayas: What is art?
Teklit: Art is everything, especially if we are talking about visual arts. It studies line, form, shape, composition, proportion, perspective, color, value (dark and light), texture, expression and more. An art work could be created using a reference or just from imagination. Art can be done in many different ways, for example: painting, sculpture, design, music, novel, poem, and more, in which individuals express their vision using their unique artistic talent. Some arts may require some special talent or training. However, every human being has some artistic potential. Therefore, most of the arts are done by majority of the population. For instance, if we look around us, we are surrounded by work of arts everywhere: look at your clothes, shoes, furniture etc.; all items are somehow created by an individual using some type of art.
Eritrean Festival, DC
(pictures are courtesy of Yared Tseggai)
Issayas: What is the importance of art in Eritrean society?
Teklit: Art is very crucial for the Eritrean society. I cannot imagine the civilization we have now, would be possible without the participation of the artists and artisans who had the vision and ability to design and create the arts that makes Eritrea what it is today. Art was essential to the ancient civilization of Eritrea. Unfortunately, we have not continued progress on our art for the past many centuries, as we should have like the western society. There are various reasons for the loss our ancient civilization, however, we should not take for granted the knowledge that our ancestors left for us. Seeing what our world has reached now is only the continuation of the ancient civilizations; artists today imitating their ideas to create new forms of art. Art in Eritrea plays a great role on the development of the country, documenting present and past history, entertaining and educating the people, and harmonizing the society.
Issayas: As a painter, what does painting mean to you?
Teklit: Painting gives me a chance to see nature deeply. Understanding the basic principles of art helps me to analyze things visually. Even when I am not painting on canvas, I always feel like I am painting when I see something which impresses me. My goal is always to express my internal feeling on canvas. My plan is usually to try to simplify my painting, avoiding too many details by using few and effective brush strokes and the right values of colors. I do this by squinting my eyes to view the big shapes on the object. I love the depth of the shadow and the effects of light, the way they create three dimensional shapes on the painting.
For more on the works of Teklit Zecarias, check out :
Next, part II