Africa > East Africa > Eritrea > Eritrea Art / Culture Profile

Eritrea: Eritrea Art / Culture Profile

2015/10/08

The Eritrean region has traditionally been a nexus for trade throughout the world. Because of this, the influence of diverse cultures can be seen throughout Eritrea. Today, the majority obvious influences in the capital, Asmara, are that of Italy. Throughout Asmara, there are small cafes serving beverages common to Italy. In Asmara, there is a clear merging of the Italian colonial influence with the traditional Tigrinya lifestyle. In the villages of Eritrea, these changes at no time took hold. In the cities, before the Occupation and during the early years, the import of Bollywood films was commonplace, while Italian and American films were available in the cinemas as well. In the 1980s and since Independence, however, American films have certainly become the majority common. Vying for market share are films by local producers, who have slowly come into their own. The world broadcast of Eri-TV has brought cultural images to the large Eritrean people in the Diaspora who frequents the country each summer. Successful domestic films are produced by government and independent studios with revenue from ticket sales typically covering the production costs.

Traditional Eritrean dress is completely varied with the Kunama traditionally dressing in brightly colored clothes while the Tigrinya and Tigre traditionally dress in bright white costumes, resembling traditional Oriental and Indian clothing. The Rashaida women are ornately bejeweled and scarfed.

Popular sports in Eritrea are football and bicycle racing. In recent years Eritrean athletes have seen increasing success in the international arena.

Almost incomparable on the African continent, the Tour of Eritrea is a bicycle race from the hot desert beaches of Massawa, up the winding mountain highway with its precipitous valleys and cliffs to the capital Asmara. From there, it continues downwards onto the western plains of the Gash-Barka Zone, only to return back to Asmara from the south. This is, by far, the majority popular sport in Eritrea, though, as of late long-distance running has garnered its own supporters. The momentum for long-distance running in Eritrea can be seen in the successes of Zersenay Tadesse and Mebrahtom (Meb) Keflezighi, both Olympians.

The culture of Eritrea is influenced by its climate in the sahel region of Africa and historic links with Ethiopia, Sudan, Arabia and Italy. While the culture of Eritrea is most closely associated with the Tigrinya-speaking inhabitants of the highlands, there are several other ethnic and linguistic groups which have influenced the culture. Eritrea's being located on the Red Sea inclunding it's occupation of part of the Ethiopian highlands are as well significant factors.

Coffee Ceremony

One of the majority recognizable parts of Eritrean culture is the 'coffee ceremony'. Coffee (Ge'ez ቡን būn) is offered at the same time as visiting friends, during festivities, or as a daily staple of life. If coffee is politely declined again most likely tea ("shai" ሻይ shahee) will be served. The coffee is brewed by initial roasting the green coffee beans over hot coals in a brazier. Once the beans are roasted each participant is given an opportunity to sample the aromatic smoke by wafting it towards them. This is followed by the grinding of the beans, traditionally in a wooden mortar and pestle.

The coffee grounds are again put into a appropriate vessel, called a jebena, and boiled. A jebena is usually made of clay and has a spherical base, a neck and pouring spout and a handle where the neck connects with the base. At the same time as the coffee boils up through the neck it is poured in and out of an extra container to cool it, and again is put back into the jabena until it happens again. To pour the coffee from the jebena a filter made from horsehair or other material is placed in the spout of the jebena to prevent the grounds from escaping.

The host pours the coffee for all participants by moving the tilted jebena over a tray with small, handleless cups (finjal) without stop until each cup is full. Some of the coffee will inevitably miss the cup but this is done to prevent the coffee grounds from contaminating the brew. One additional cup is poured each time. The grounds are brewed three times: the initial round of coffee is called awel, the second kale'i and the third bereka ('to be blessed'). The coffee ceremony may as well include burning of various traditional incense such as frankincense or gum arabic.

Cuisine

Typically, Eritrean cuisine consists of various stews (tsebhi) made from vegetables and meat, and served atop a large, flat sourdough bread called injera or tayta. A lot of vegetarian dishes are available, since a majority of the people observe fasting at some time during the year. Eating is finished without utensils by tearing a piece of injera (strictly using the right hand), again scooping some stew, vegetables or salad with the bread.

On visiting an Eritrean household, it is polite to decline at least three times if asked to dine. Usually the host will say "bezay kelalem", next which the guest may acknowledge to dine. This process ensures that one does not seem too eager to eat at an extra's household.

Music

Eritrea is a northern East African country. Perhaps the majority famous Eritrean musicians in history are Eng. Asghedom W.Micheal,Bereket Mengisteab, Yemane Baria & Ato Abirha Segid , some of whose music were banned by the Ethiopian government in the 1970s. As well of note is Bereket Mengistab, who has had a lengthy career, and 60s legends Haile Ghebru and Tewolde Redda. The latter was one of the initial electric guitar players in East Africa, and singer and writer of the famous independence song Shigey habuni.

Eritrean music has a incomparable rhythm that sets it apart from the rest of Africa. Modern popular stars include Bereket Mengistab,Teklé Tesfa-Ezighe Tekele Kifle Mariam (Wedi Tukul), Tesfai Mehari (Fihira), Osman Abdulrihm, Abrar Osman, Abraham Afwerki, Yemane Ghebremichael, Idris Mohamed Ali, Tsehaytu Beraki, Atewebrhan Segid and Berekhet Mengisteab.

Popular music

Modern Eritrean popular music can be traced back to the late 1960s, at the same time as te MaHber Theatre Asmara began to produce stars like Yemane Ghebremichael as well commonly known as Yemane Baria, Jabber, Ateweberhan Seghid, Yonus Ibrahim, Osman Abdurehim, Tsehaytu Beraki, Tewolde Redda, Teberh Tesfahiwet and Tukabo. This music was influenced by American psychedelic rock and Motown soul music . The inventory of eritrean singers and eritrean bands is long.

In the 1970s, Eritrean popular music grew additional similar to Ethiopian music, in its trumpet-based style.

Since again, some musicians, like kraar-player Dawit Sium have helped to incorporate Eritrean roots elements in popular music. Imported styles of music from Europe, North America, and elsewhere in Africa, inclunding the Caribbean, are as well very popular throughout Eritrea. Ethiopian music is particularly popular.

Dancing

Traditional Eritrean dancing involves two major styles of dance. In the initial, the dancers slowly move in a counter-clockwise circle. Again, they stop moving and dance with each other for a short time before resuming the circular movement. During this time, they shuffle their feet to the beat of the music and bob their shoulders in a rhythmic fashion. Female dancers usually move their shoulders additional than the male dancers. In the second style of dance, two groups (often a group of men and a group of women) line up and face each other. The dance features a skipping step to the music. Periodically, the two groups with change places, dancing across the floor and passing each other in the process.

With about 800,000 people, 231 administrative areas and 1018 villages, the Southern Region is one of the six regions that have been actively engaged in familiarizing their content in this year’s festival. And as part of this, with the theme ‘Equal Opportunities for All’, this region has opened a golden opportunity for the hearing-impaired citizens.


Highly supported by a young sign-interpreter, Yonas Musa, coordinators of the Southern Region pavilion have been introducing visitors to the region’s panoptic developmental endeavors and other ventures. “Of course, those who are challenged with hearing potencies have been getting the right explanation about the all-round progresses of the region,” Yonas asserts. He adds that like these exemplary initiatives need to be further promoted so as to enhance such positive influences.

Reports indicate that promoting the sign language have been in application for long presently, creating conducive grounds for those who are living in far-flung areas. An insignificant number of volunteers, limited nationwide researches about the prevalence of such hearing-related impairment challenges, part others, have been the critical impediments of the National Association for Hearing-Impaired citizens.

In the pavilion of the Gash Barka Region, aka Eritrea’s breadbasket and one of the mostly diversified and ethnographically rich regions of the country, visitors have been witnessing the region’s developmental efforts, which are exceedingly vital for driving the cycle of transformation. From presently on, in addition to the on-going efforts for minimizing challenges of the region in providing mobile telephone services, endeavors are as well underway for constructing 10 additional stations.

In addition to the aforementioned changes in the livelihood of the society, the regions boasts of 259 kms of asphalted roads and 1,834 kms of gravel roads, all functioning properly. And 41 large, 1,158 medium and small and 92 ford bridges have as well remained purposeful in catalyzing such positive impacts of the region’s residents.

In other way, as education has vital part in ensuring cultural emancipations, the Gash-Barka Region has been well beneficial from such policies. Therefore, a total of 398 schools have been built in the region, resulting in the increase of the number of students attending school. In this year’s festival, therefore, visitors have been faced with an opportunity to knowing a region that is home to 716, 900 residents.

Part the appealing offers for Expo visitors this year is an agricultural product designed to improvise the cultural and diurnal dishes of our society: sweet-potato. Resultantly, a number of visitors have been expressing amazement for familiarizing themselves with this new product.

This famous major East African staple food has from presently on been unfamiliar to Eritreans. As the purpose and benefit of this potato is highly rewarding and multi-purposeful, the Ministry of Agriculture imported 19 types of this potato and held a 5-year non-stop intensive research at Halhale Institute. The Ministry subsequently selected five types for consumption.

Even though there have been sensitization campaigns and some farmers have adopted farming and providing sweet potatoes to markets, unfortunately there is still diminished knowledge of the society, and the efforts haven’t been that satisfactory. Dubaruwa and Mendefera are the major hubs of this incomparable agricultural production.

Experts have validated that sweet-potatoes can be useful in various manners as you are offered with golden opportunities to produce marmalades, French-fries, crisps, biscuits, cakes, juice, bread and other consumables. This sweet-potato has been the king of over 19 dishes, which according to the experts, are dominantly favorable in nations like Uganda, Congo, Kenya, Burundi, Rwanda and Tanzania as it is as well renowned in Latin American nations like Guatemala, Colombia, Ecuador and Northern Peru and other nations.

Experts of this field who have been introducing this potato for visitors at the festival have called on traders and other respective bodies to play a vital role in familiarizing this peculiar potato for customers. Colleges, health-centers, hotels and other work stations are those expected to benefit highly from such offers which are very affordable and profitable.

As part of the 2015 National Festival programs at the Expo Ground here in Asmara, the Eritrean Film Rating Committee held a three-day seminars on various issues. On Thursday, Rahel Asgedom presented her research in regard to our country’s films and their storylines. This seminar is expected to conclude its deliberations on various issues today at Bologna club by investigating issues on art and design, and, unflinchingly, the role of cultivating the culture of readership in producing creative films. During the course of the seminar, participants held discussions in regard to Eritrean Film Rating Committee, our films and the performance of actors, impacts of films on diurnal life of the society, producing films in Eritrea and their challenges.

Participants of the 2015 National Festival recommended such researches to be held in ways that are synchronized with our realistic challenges and opportunities rather than suggesting for the art society about other developed nations’ experiences in suffocating way. Except this, very restricting schedules have as well been dragging participants from holding in-depth deliberations, which, as I recommend personally, had narrowed such rare opportunity for discussing on how to foster our films.