text and images britt-arnhild
I was reading a book last night, Ciao Asmara, by Justin Hill. Hill worked for two years in Eritrea as a treacher years ago, and wrote this book about his experiences there. Among the people he befriended during his stay, was a young man from Keren, Habteweld.
we didn´t have shoes for our feet, habteweld said, but nobody complained. we were always very happy
habteweld had spent the earliest days of his childhood hearding goats around the slopes of hadish adi. each day he took them high up into the hills. it was a lonely job for a small child, with no food or water, and the fear of snakes or lions to torment the imaginative mind. the isolation made habteweld deeply religious. he believed god protected him from animals in the wilderness, as he had protected jesus for fourty days and nights in the desert
habteweld wrote poetry, like wordsworth, nature inspired him to words, especially sunsets, mornings, stars and birds. he told me that in the fields he used to lie and stare up at the poor man´s ceiling - the sky - and dream about peace. he´d grown up with the war in the same way that i´d grown up with pop music
Several pages in Justin Hill´s book are about Habteweld. One day he is taken home to Habteweld´s house where he also meets his wife. Hill is asked to close his eyes. When he is allowed to open them, the room is dark, except from a table dressed as an altar, with four lit candles. Among other things, the table was filled with clay statues of bird.......
he lifted the clay statues with extraordinary care and tenderness, as if they were living animals. i have made an exhibition, he says, i hope to raise enough money to go to norway and show my birds. i have a friend there
I have had Justin Hill´s book for many years. I bought it after my second visit to Eritrea in 2001, and when I came to these pages, they left me completely dumb. In 1999 I had visited Habteweld, his wife and their baby son. I had experiences exectly the same thing as Hill, with the dark room, the altar, the candles and the birds. Habteweld played flute for us, and I knew that in a year we were going to invite him to Norway.
These days the friendship link between Trondheim in Norway and Keren in Eritrea is celebrating 20 years. Habteweld, Dr. Zere Bekit and Dr Kesete are in Trondheim to take part in our celebrations. Habteweld and Zere are both friend of ours for many years, so yesterday we invited them for dinner.
We were not far into the meal when Habteweld took up his two flutes, one he had made himself, and started to play.
When I found my collection of flutes, he was thrilled, and wanted to try them all!
What a wonderful night!
Thank you Dr. Kesete, Zere and Habteweld
Before they left, they had to leave early to meet more Norwegian friends, we took some photos out in the garden. Habteweld fell for two of my clay birds.....
Zere and Dr. Kesete had already fallen for Terje´s chocolate cake, which he served for dessert