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Yonatan Tesfay

Self Employed

Asmara/Mieras Handicraft

Handbags, Furniture, Interiors

I consider myself lucky to have been exposed to the world of professional handicraft during my childhood. My grandfather was one of Asmara’s (Eritrea’s capital) most popular metalcraft professionals and I started working under him since my early teens. My father was also engaged in the same line of work and I worked under him as well. When I succeeded both of their works following their passing, I expanded the business into carpentry. I then slowly expanded it into designing curtains. My mother is also a trained knitter who opened my eyes to the beauty of hand-knitted garments. The plan was, and is, to combine all this family experience and turn the enterprise into a genuinely handicraft business competitive at a regional level with a selective global outreach. Since 2011, I successfully displayed my various works in four exhibitions in Asmara. The exhibitions captured widespread media coverage. When COVID-19 lockdown was enforced nationally, I had to close my workshop and sit at home. The lockdown, however, was an unexpected opportunity for me to sit down, think about handworks that can be done at home and contemplate expanding my handicraft into a new dimension: leatherworks. Since 2020, I led my team to focus on producing leather handbags at home. We succeeded to produce more than 70 different types of handbags and similar works from genuine leather, made only by hand, needles and threads. We just successfully held the first exhibition of genuine handmade leather bags – my fifth – between 21 and 30 July 2023. The next plan of my enterprise, Mieras Handicraft, is to produce handicraft involving jewellery, precious stones and coastal shells. The immediate task of the leadership team of Mieras is – to be true to the name ‘Mieras’ which means ‘inheritance’ in at least three of Eritrean languages – to continue training as many younger handicraft professionals as possible.

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