Picturing a Bright Future: The Eritrean Woman's Photography Project (Cory Aronec)
Over a two year period, artist Sarah Crawley mentored a group of Eritrean women in the art of photography through the Winnipeg Arts Council's WITH ART program. The result of this project is a quilt made of photographic images.
The quilt will be unveiled today at 5pm at the Immigrant Centre, 100 Adelaide St, preceded by a coffee ceremony and followed by an Eritrean meal.
SCENE had a chance to speak with Enderasu Teweldebrahan, one of the project participants, and artist Sarah Crawley. (With thanks to translator Lambros Kyriakakos)
Enderasu, what made you want to get involved in the project?
It was a project aiming to assist single parent families with art empowerment. As soon as we engaged in the process of photography learning we realized that this project was offering more than photography. We were all challenged with the issue of raising a family alone, in a new society all of us with significant language barrier and all through our experience had an inner strength. Participating in the project revealed strong motivation to win in life and an unveiled strong spirit. Art is the vehicle of healing, of building confidence. It brought us together.
Sarah, what made you want to get involved?
I wanted to be a part of the WITH ART program as it emphasizes the importance of process in art-making. For me it is about developing trust, sharing experiences and then creating something together.
Enderasu, what have you learned about the art of photography?
I learned technical skills. lab printing, dark room, digital camera use and related media services. I learned how to improve pictures and navigate through the art of photography.
Sarah, can you tell us more about the photos in the quilt?
The images are photographs taken by the participants. The participants photographed aspects of their lives here in Canada, their homes, families, friends and community events. We decided as a group that the quilt would be made up of images of their children, representing the future.
How has this project changed you?
Enderasu: I learned skills. I built confidence. It helped me restore some lost roles at home. I was able to be the teacher of my children in photography and strengthen parental roles that were weakened during the integration process in a new society. I built friendships and learned to appreciate more the blessing the Canadian Society.
Sarah: The strength and determination of the participants in overcoming the challenges they have faced is inspiring. I always come away from our meetings, workshops and community events with a profound sense of joy. My art practice and my life have definitely been enriched.
Enderasu, what do you want others to learn from the final quilt?
This is a quilt made by the women of the Eritrean Community and represents the new wave of African immigrants in Manitoba. It also represents women's strength and determination to succeed prior to, during the immigration process and after arriving in Canada. It also reveals the strength shown by the Eritrean women in the social transformation and freedom of Eritrea as we are all celebrating the 20 years of Eritrea's liberation and freedom.
Endrasu Teweldebrhan (far left), Senait Tikabo, Bisirat Mebrahtu, Misgana Tesfamicheal, Sarah Crawley (far right), (Christopher Friesen)
Enderasu Teweldebrahan is originally from Eritrea, Africa. She immigrated to Canada in 2006 after losing her husband in a violent war in Ethiopia while fighting for independence. Enderasu is a freedom fighter herself. At the young age of 17, she joined a organization of strong Eritrean woman fighting for social transformation and liberation. She is a single mother of three children between the ages of 10 - 18. Enderasu prides herself on being a diversified and unified African woman with a wide political conscious. The Quilt photography project is a direct representation of her inner strength and commitment.
Sarah Crawley is a multi-disciplinary artist. She works in the medium of photography, book binding and video production. She has a BFA from the University of Manitoba where she is now a photography technician. Crawley has won many awards and has exhibited in both group and solo shows nationally. She is very much involved in the Winnipeg arts scene, serving on juries and boards of many art galleries. Crawley will be continuing her work with the WITH ART, public art program in the years to come.