Elsa Gebreyesus lived in Ethiopia, Kenya, and United States before going on to receive her BA from Brock University in Ontario, Canada. After Eritrea won its independence from Ethiopia, she lived there for five years, working as a Project Officer with an indigenous women's organization.
After leaving Eritrea, she came to the U. S. where she's been pursuing her career and her lifelong passion for art. In addition to her work and art, she also volunteers with organizations involved with human rights issues especially in Africa. She admires and has been greatly influenced by modernist painters from both Africa and the West. Gebreyesus currently lives with her husband and two children in Fairfax, VA.
“Each of my paintings starts with a loose sketch, landscape or object and is built up with layer upon layer of paint. I do not start with an end in mind when I begin a painting, instead the challenge is to find the end. This process to me is a type of meditation - an intimate conversation between the materials and myself.
I enjoy working with acrylic paint because of its versatility. Drawing media in the paintings are caran d'ache and graphite. Some pieces incorporate text from my native language, Tigrinya. I also use sand and other texture media all part of the process of building visual stories that reflect experiences and internal states.
Tigrinya is one of the official languages spoken in Eritrea, a small East African country. It has a phonetic writing system consisting of symbols that represent syllables. Using these symbols in my paintings reflects my connection to my cultural heritage and enables me to express my views about the current situation in Eritrea.
Time and time again we have witnessed the determination of the human spirit to strive for justice, peace and freedom. It is our birthright. Our task, I believe, is to honor that spirit and bear witness in our lives and for those who come after us. My aim is to bear witness to that ancestral spirit while at the same time incorporate my personal experiences and history through the abstract compositions.”