A passion and talent for art has provided comfort and hope for a young Eritrean refugee artist living in Libya.
Amid an ongoing conflict, a deteriorating economic and social situation due to COVID-19 lockdown measures, the artist said ‘‘Painting means life to me. It’s part of my life’‘.
In an unfinished building in a downtrodden neighborhood in Tripoli, Solomon Gebreyonas Alema, can be found most days sketching and painting in a small room.
“All of the people when they pray, they get some kind of hope. And by using this painting for praying, people keep their faith”, the artist said.
The 29-year-old Eritrean refugee, has been drawing and painting since he was a child. He is self-taught and has never attended formal art classes.
His Christian faith is also a strong influence and much of his artwork is religious in nature. During the lockdown, he found escape in art.
The dimly lit, overcrowded building he lives in houses around 200 refugees from Eritrea, Ethiopia and Sudan. The lockdown has left them struggling to get by.
“People’s thoughts are very much about coronavirus. They are so worried because most of the people live a hand-to-mouth existence”, Gebreyonas Alema said.
Solomon left his home and family determined to pursue his dream of studying art. His attempts to reach Europe have so far failed and for now he is stuck in Libya.
“I have been in Libya for three years, and one thing that gave us hope is being under UNHCR. We didn’t lose hope due to this and due to our faith”, the 29-year old added.
Libya has been under lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic since mid-March. The measure is preventing many refugees and migrants from earning money to live through daily labor.