These are the sentiments of 24-year-old Isaias Berhane, a rising Eritrean artist born in Asmara, Eritrea. His dedication to contributing to society through his passion for art has established him as one of the promising young artists in Eritrea. In addition to pursuing his artistic dreams, Isaias graduated from Mainefhi College of Engineering in July 2023 and currently serves as a secondary school teacher in Ghelealo town in the Northern Red Sea region.
Can you tell us about the influences that led you to pursue painting as a hobby?
A: I believe that my talent and motivation for art were always present, but it took time to discover the breaking point. Growing up, I was surrounded by family members who were artists themselves, which unconsciously imprinted the beauty of art in my mind from a very young age. My father and close relatives repeatedly exposed me to the world of art, particularly painting and drawing. As I got older, I began to recognize my deep love for art. I excelled in pencil sketching and found myself spending more time drawing than socializing with friends. However, during my college years, I focused on my studies and didn’t prioritize pursuing my dream. It was only later that I found the motivation to make my artistic aspirations a reality. Interestingly, my younger brother also had an exhibition when he was just 14 years old, which further ignited my passion for art.
Congratulations on your recent exhibition. Could you share more about it?
A: Thank you! My first exhibition was a collection of works I created after completing college. I had a year-long window of opportunity to fully immerse myself in what I love. This exhibition served as a platform to introduce myself to the world, and it marks just the beginning of my artistic journey. One of the featured paintings was “Prayer,” which required significant effort to bring to life. I am excited about the possibilities that lie ahead.
What inspires your artwork?
A: My artwork draws inspiration primarily from my surroundings— the images and ideas encountered in daily life, the small details often overlooked by people, and fleeting thoughts that often go unnoticed. I set aside alone time to quiet my mind and reflect on these seemingly insignificant thoughts. I follow where these thoughts or ideas lead me, transforming them into tangible pieces of art.
Your exhibition was titled “Hope.” Can you explain the significance of this name?
A: The name “Hope” was chosen because all the paintings I presented carried elements of hope within them. They conveyed a strong sense of optimism and hopefulness. My exhibition aimed to promote progress and emotional growth. It felt fitting to encapsulate this theme in the title.
Apart from your family’s influence, have you received any formal art training?
A: While I did take a summer art course in 2010 offered by the Segen Eritrean Artists group (SEAG), most of my artistic education came from my family. My father played a pivotal role as my critic, providing valuable guidance and mentorship throughout my journey.
What advice would you offer young individuals trying to discover their talents and passions early in life?
I firmly believe that young individuals possess unique talents or hobbies within themselves. The challenge often lies in being preoccupied with external influences rather than exploring one’s internal potential. I would advise them to seek inspiration and explore experiences that might lead them to discover their strengths or passions. Once identified, it’s essential to connect with like-minded individuals who share the same interests. Interacting and dedicating time to what ignites their creativity and passion is key.
Where do you think Eritrean society stands in terms of awareness and appreciation of art, especially painting?
The appreciation of art in Eritrean society is progressing. The more artists contribute to enlightening the community, the greater the understanding becomes. Many people already appreciate art, but it will take time to reach a point where everyone recognizes that art is a powerful form of communication and a means of preserving culture. Art has the potential to bring about significant change, and it’s essential for us, as artists, to align ourselves with the rest of the world in this endeavor.
What can the public expect from you in the future, Isaias?
For me, art, particularly painting, is a platform where one can express their emotions and perspectives without fear of judgment. I aim to grow and learn continuously to represent my nation on a global scale. My dream is for my artwork to be seen worldwide, contributing to progress and understanding. I also believe that establishing a solid foundation for an art school, where individuals with a passion for art can flourish, is crucial. Together, we can use our passions and talents to create a unique form of civilization.
Thank you for sharing your inspiring journey with us, Isaias. We look forward to witnessing your continued success in the world of art.