In search of my Eritrean roots
Written by Araia Tesfamariam
Knowledge of self, understanding who you are and where you come from, is the anchor that can keep you from going spiritually adrift in a world consciousness that has become increasingly self destructive. There is stability in that self-awareness that can't be taken away from you once you have it. But for me, an African-American kid from Dayton, Ohio, I almost did lose it – and had to search for decades to get it back.
My name is Araia Tesfamariam and I am a half Eritrean, half African-American film maker living in Chicago, IL. My mother, who is Africa-American, married my father, Araia Tesfamariam in 1977. He died in a car accident in March of 1978, about 3 months before I was born. What you have to understand is this tragedy occurred long before there was an Eritrean community in every major metropolitan area in North America. As a small child, I was told who my father was, where he was from and that there was a war for independence taking place. My mother remarried when I was two and I was raised in a multicultural military family. There were no Eritreans any where near where I lived – not like there is today. So learning Tigrinya, the music, the dances, the food, all the cultural nuances you take for granted were not available to me as I was growing up. I was completely disconnected from my people.
The only reason I had any interest in learning about my people and culture as I matured, was due to my mother constantly reminding me I was Eritrean and sharing what little she knew about my father's history. I have always wanted to go to Eritrea, and after making contact with my father's relatives in the States a few years ago (that reconnection is a story in itself) I decided I would go to Asmara and the Adi this summer to meet my family there and see the people who always knew about me, even if I didn't know about them. Since I have been working in TV production for 12 years, it only made sense to me that I document this life changing experience on film.
This film is called “Big Araia”, which is how my mother used to refer to my late father since she gave me his same name. This is a story about the quest for a reconnection with my Eritrean family, my culture, and my country. I am blessed to be able to do what many African-Americans dream of doing - reach out and touch their own African history. This movie is about finding what was taken from me and never letting it go again. I will be filming in Asmara, Keren, Segeneti, Massawa, and a number of other locations. This is a story that appeals to many people in the African diaspora because a lot of us have a relative that left home to for a better opportunity or safety.... and never came back. While every story may not have a happy ending, this one does. I am going home, to see my people.
This is a moment I want to share with every one. I am putting together a very experienced film crew to capture this whole experience. However, film production is very expensive, and I need the help of the community to get this movie made. I have a website up that lets me raise money by accepting small donations from a large group of people. For instance; if 1000 Eritreans in the US donated $25 to this film, that would give this film a big boost in the quest to pay for the film crew and editing costs. It's a great way to get donations with out any one person having to donate a large sum of money.
Please watch the promotional video at BigAraia. You can also make your on line donations at that site if you would like to support the film. I only have 12 days left and I would really appreciate the help of the Eritrean community in the making of this film. If you have any questions, I will answer them as best as I can at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you and God bless.
|Araia Tesfamariam's parents|
|Araia Tesfamariam's parents|