Elsa Gebreyesus (b. 1969 Addis Ababa, Ethiopia) lived in Ethiopia, Kenya, and the United States before going on to receive her degree in English Literature from Brock University in Ontario, Canada. After college, Elsa lived in Asmara, Eritrea for five years (1992 -1997) working on capacity building post-independence of Eritrea. 

After leaving Eritrea, she came to the U. S. where she’s been pursuing her career in information technology and lifelong passion for art. In addition to her work and art, Elsa is passionate about organizations involved with human rights issues both in the US and Africa. 

Elsa Gebreyesus’ work has been selected and exhibited internationally through the U.S. Art in Embassies program in 2012 Mbabane, capital city of Eswatini (previously called Swaziland), and for a permanent exhibition for the Antananarivo Embassy, Madagascar in 2010.

Her work was also selected for "Encounters Beyond Borders: Contemporary Artists from the Horn of Africa" Kennedy Museum of Art, Athens, Ohio, January 22- May 29, 2016. An exhibition that brought artists together from several countries in the Horn of Africa, including Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan, Djibouti, and Somalia along the Red Sea.

Most recently, Elsa Gebreyesus' painting "Cape Fuchsia", featuring the letters of Eritrean and Ethiopian “fidel” (alphabet) was featured on the cover of the July 2023 issue of Cell Genomics, a scientific journal, that published groundbreaking research, furthering the diversification of genomic data, and informing the genetics of autism in African populations (Cell Genomics, Tuncay et al.).

Gebreyesus currently lives with her husband and two children in Alexandria, VA pursuing her career and art close to her family and friends.


Each of my paintings starts with a loose sketch, landscape or object and is built up with layer upon layer of paint. Often it will be in a state of chaos before the process of adding and subtracting begins. 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 am drawn to abstract compositions because they require us to stop and reflect, to ask questions. Abstract art is also open to multiple interpretations. Each viewer will bring his or her own experiences into play as they contemplate the work. This adds another dimension to the artwork, a sort of interactive communication that flows from the artist, to the painting and eventually the viewer.

In some of my paintings I use collage to enhance the surfaces of the canvases. I enjoy working with acrylic paint because of its versatility enabling me to work in light washes or thick applications. 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.