A Yemeni Girl That Passed the Red Lines. Bushra Maqtari:Distinguished Works and Unlimited Aspiration [Archives:1999/42/Interview]

October 18 1999

After a long period of downbeat; new life revives in the cultural circles of Yemen. Cultural sections appear in newspapers. New institutions come to life. A number of young writers and authors break all limitations and declare their presence. That includes some women who just passed over old traditions and long preserved red lines, forcefully presenting themselves. One of these is Ms. Bushra Fadhl Maqtari, author and story writer. She first appeared on the pages of the new-born cultural section of Taizzi Al-Gumhooria Newspaper, which concerned itself with literature, arts and intellectual issues. Bushra was able to firmly establish herself within cultural circles and to take off with remarkable success. She asserted those women writers of Yemen can challenge and face without fear of the mischievous. Farouq Al-Kamali interviewd this young story-teller and filled the following
Q: Will you introduce yourself ?
A: In short I am a citizen who is consumed by the fire of our beloved homeland, and dreams for a better future that can embrace all brave and passionate lovers like me. I want to glory to the the homeland and to create for myself in its cultural memory a highly esteemed cultural canvas a highly esteemed place. I want to open a window in the darkness so that the future can be lit up. Very modestly, I am ardent devotee of ink and paper who confidently boasts as a writer.
Q: How did you take to writing?
Which authors were you influenced you most, locally, internationally and on the Arab level?
A: My beginning was fire and live ember!! Then roses and dreams. My beginning was not easy. There was something hidden in the depths of my soul which I couldn’t exactly know. It rebelled against me, forced me to write and stay very late at night, then to quarrel with my writings and tear them to pieces. Gradually I felt the writer inside me come crystallized.
It disputed with my secluded soul, inflamed my stubborn and soul. Thus I started a relationship with writing that was violent in the beginning, as I fled from it and considered it a social and moral burden. With time, this relationship developed into a subdued one that became a refined and transparent and existentialist. I started to see things and events in the eyes of a philosopher. My pen began acquiring my respect and affection. As for influence, I think my talents were polished by my readings of the Arab writers Edward El-Kharrat, Gamal Al-Ghitani, Yousef Al-Qaeed, Ghada Assamman and others. Globally, there are Hugo, Destoivesky, Brost, Zola, Bushkin, Hemingway, Schikhov and many others who attracted me into their human, innovative and great worlds.
Q: As a story-writer of the nineties how do you see the status of story-writing in particular and of literature in general? How do you see future Yemeni literature?
A: Story-writing in Yemen is promising now as new and warm blood has joined, especially those of the eighties and nineties. This kind of literature has become a reality. It began getting Yemeni characteristics and local features. It also began exploring broader horizons. This means that it is no more isolated as before. There are many new voices now in Yemeni literature and they need more support and objective criticism so as to take their place in the Yemeni Literature .As for the Yemeni Literature in general I think the same is valid. For example there are new visions and ideas and names in our poetry and there is the same pre-determined waylaid absence of the state. Official cultural periodicals are being a rarity. There is absence of official festivals of Culture and Arts. Publishing of books is no more subsidized. And the censorship process lacks any objective or superior vision. In the light of all of these the future of literature in Yemen seems cloudy. We have on one side a qualitative and quantitative accumulation of new innovative voices that are fed up with the traditional frames of innovation, and try to create its own space rejecting those standards that have proved themselves unsystematical. On the other side the readership is diminishing: ie the absence of the conscious and sensitive reader who can comprehend innovative and creative works and thus become an additional resource for literary works; now, he can neither add or give any additional reading to the text which can serve it or give it any inner meanings.
Slowly readers disappear! There remains only the deliverer with nobody to deliver to. Thus Text Dictatorship or one-side reading takes over while the official cultural institutions that are capable of making an innovative mentality and creating a more developed literature atmosphere are absent! It is a cloudy future as I have said before.
Q: Do you think women of Yemen have gained their right to share with men? What do you think are the main hurdles that block the way of female innovation in Yemen?
A: This subject is one of sorrows and leads to many others. It has religious, moral, social and political dimensions. The women of Yemen are still ruled up to now by many traditions and social residues and need hundreds of years to get rid of their features or inhuman ideas. Women in Yemen have not acquired their rights because they are not conscious of them yet. They are not aware of their strength and activity. They had been marginalized by many factors and they have submitted to it since a long time. We can say that the women of Yemen have of late gained some presence and occupied a number of posts and entered some new domains.
Despite this, Yemeni women are still maiden and a fertile land that promises a lot. Our women need a suitable atmosphere in order to be able to release their huge and eternal capabilities and energies. Difficulties for women to be innovative in a society that gives man monopoly of science, innovation and love need an objective study and a neutral viewpoint. As for my personal experience I faced many social difficulties and psychological pressures when I began writing. In addition to narrow views that consider us inferior, the are moral criteria that scrutinize female writers and red lines they supposed not to cross at all. Then there is the mentality of the reader to whom the text is delivered whose taste differentiates between texts on the base of the their writers’ gender – a concept of male society mentality that is not fair to female society. Add to that the publishing difficulties; as publishing needs mediation and contacts. For example I am still looking for an official institution to help me print my first book of stories. As I am not ready to beg any official or somebody to go between I continue to pay that tax and wait for heavens to rain.
Q: They are preparing to declare Taiz as the Town of Culture, do you think that Taiz is qualified for that?
A: Taiz is the capital of love, hope and innovation. People of Taiz are different from those of any other area. This is not town or territory fanaticism but the truth which every intellectual, politician and official knows. Taiz has many features and characteristics that make her pre-qualified to be declared Capital of Culture and Innovation. There are many young and innovative people that fly in the skies of Taiz; but there also many factors that hinder such a possibility: Marginalization of Taiz by the Government, the lack of cultural institutions to welcome young innovators and provide them the necessary atmospheres and references. There are no public libraries in Taiz. There is a neglect of Taiz and its writers. There are some efforts made by Al-Saeed Foundation to make Taiz a Capital of Culture, and I hope that Taiz shall gain back its old status, and be a platform of innovation but I am not optimistic because there are many who want to abort these patriotic efforts.
Q: We are saying farewell to a century and receiving another. What hopes (personal and general) would like to see as realities in the new century?
A: To the century that is leaving us I say: Well, you have good enough!! To the new one, I say: You shall good enough for us to dream. As for my own hopes: I hope to complete my university studies and to join higher studies, to achieve a scientific rank for my self besides the one in the field of literature and to publish a number my collections. I hope that other wishes of mine shall take place in reality. My general wish is for the general situation in Yemen to improve so that it is rid of all material burdens that are exhausting it. I hope there shall be more freedom and real democracy. I wish our homeland to be more commodious and able to bear the dreams, creations and aspirations of its innovators.
Q: I you were the Minister of Culture in Yemen what spheres shall gain your attention?
A: If I were a Minister of Culture in some other country that shall be something honorable. In Yemen, the
Ministry of Culture is hardly a Ministry. If you insist and call it so, then it is suffering of many sicknesses.
There is no hope of medication for her even if I become the minister! I don’t like the word ” if ” as you it opens the way for Satan to have a role. What the Ministry of Culture already has suffices her.
Q: What does “The Dreaming Taiz” mean to you?
A: It means to Bushra Maqtari and to the new generation that is trying construct an existence for itself, it means love, creation and dreaming. There is an existential relation between me and Taiz, with its streets,people and even to its crazy ones. In short Taiz means my other face with all its dreams, fractures and wanderings. ” Dreaming Taiz” is a love project that have never been concluded
Q: A last word?
A: I hate the word ” last”. Let’s say “first”.
In the beginning and at the conclusion of this interview, I would like to thank you for this beautiful opportunity that Yemen Times gave me to intercommunicate with its special kind of readers. I hope that I succeeded in that. They should forgive any inadequacies vagueness in my answers. I intended to be so, because I do hide some things for them in the future. Lastly I hope that I can make a new addition to the Literature in Yemen and to declare myself as a story-writer of the size of Yemen. I hope also to have another acquaintance at which both are more free of the other side’s sway!