Biniam – Artist

Inside ‘Africa’s North Korea’: An escaped artist describes life inside the repressive and secretive state

He says: “For me it’s very difficult to continue under a military situation and an indefinite situation. I’m not encouraged to marry someone. I can’t even help my family.”

For years, it was the thought of his family, and especially his mother, that kept him sane and gave him hope. When she passed away, he knew he had to leave.

“In my opinion, when my country became free, I thought it was freedom,” Biniam explains. “In the years from 1991 up to 1997, everybody work, everybody happy.”

Biniam spent a total of five years studying under the Chinese “professors.” He learned “printmaking, printing, sculpture, painting.” His passion is painting and he focused on that, learning “impressionist style, abstract style, realistic, everything,” he recalls happily.

He shows me this picture of his class taken when the country’s President, Isaias Afwerki, visited.