Response to Denden Hayelom’s Open Letter to Artist Michael Adonai

All Eritrean artists and musicians who have chosen to take a stand against the people and Government of Eritrea to always remember that your gift was nurtured and encouraged inside Eritrea, amongst your people and comrades.
All Eritrean artists and musicians who have chosen to take a stand against the people and Government of Eritrea to always remember that your gift was nurtured and encouraged inside Eritrea, amongst your people and comrades.

By Bahri Tecle,

I READ Denden Hayelom’s open letter to Michael Adonai with great interest.

As a committed follower of Eritrean news and affairs online, I was pleasantly surprised to read such a balanced and reasoned criticism of an issue at hand.

Commendably, after offering his genuine compliments to an Eritrean comrade and extraordinary artist we have all appreciated over the years, Denden Hayelom proceeds to make his point regarding Michael Adonai’s recent interview on awate.com without veering off the subject and most notably without an ounce of disrespect, name-calling and/or the wanton character assassination that is so ubiquitous in other exchanges among Eritreans, and at times – even more embarrassingly – statements directed at non-Eritreans. 

Too often, rather than offering the reader basic irrefutable facts and/or context-based analysis that allow one to make up one’s own mind, we are overwhelmed with slanderous and derogatory exchanges that take away from the merit of the writer and diminish the value of the writing.

This unfortunate phenomenon is not unique to one camp or another – whether pro or against the people and Government of Eritrea – and perhaps most disappointing is when this type of obnoxious behavior in exhibited by Eritreans we consider astute and politically conscious and who we know are capable of delivering on much higher standards.

Political disagreements can still be had without resorting to childish outburst and tasteless diatribes and by remaining loyal to the task at hand – the overall national interest of Eritrea – and as Eritreans concerned with the wellbeing of our country and people, it falls on us to positively and genuinely reflect our society’s admirable and exemplary norms and values at any given time.

Hence, it is my sincere hope that Denden Hayelom’s modest and composed style can cause us all to think twice before the next time we respond – whether online or in person. The ultimate objective must always remain Eritrea’s independence and sovereignty.

Having said all this, there is one point in the following paragraph of the open letter that I would like to call Denden’s attention to and correct:

Nonetheless, upon completion of your paintings, you were requested to present your work for selection. To the utter shock of those present at the time, you demanded an exorbitant amount of money – amounting to millions of Nakfa – for your creations. Seeing this act as completely unreasonable – and very un-Eritrean – the Government of Eritrea decided to relieve you of this task and asked that you (1) take all your paintings with you and (2) reimburse all the expenses paid to you in advance – including travel/tour expenses as well as painting material expenses.”

The Government of Eritrea did not ask Michael Adonai to pay back travel and tour expenses, which amount to tens of thousands of dollars. It only requested that he reimburse the equivalent of the painting equipment and material afforded to him, which included canvases, brushes, paint, etc.

At this point, I would like to implore all Eritrean artists and musicians who have – consciously or unconsciously – chosen to take a stand against the people and Government of Eritrea to always remember the shoulders on which they stood to reach stardom. In Denden Hayelom’s own words: “your gift was nurtured and encouraged inside Eritrea, amongst your people and comrades.”