Dr. Ebtisam Al-Mutwakkil to Yemen Times:”Writing was the reason that helped me get my face back.” [Archives:2008/1204/Culture]

November 3 2008

Nadia Al-Sakkaf
Dr. Ebtisam Al-Mutwakkil is one of Yemen's well known female poets and literary writers. She has impressed people inside and outside Yemen with her sensitive nature and touching expressions throughout her career. Today she teaches Arabic literature at Sana'a University. Nadia Al-Sakkaf interviewed Dr. Al-Mutwakkil about her life, work and ambitions.

Who is Ebtisam Al-Mutwakkil?

I am one of the Yemeni women who have seen only half the certainty, half the fact and half the dream. I believed in the absent halves that will be recreated from justice and equality. I am one of those women without any difference. I was born in Sana'a and exactly in B'ir Al-Azab which witnessed my first scream in this life. The onset of the seventies was transforming and I have the right to be proud of it. Had I been born a decade earlier or later, I wouldn't have been aware of things around me. Awareness of the circumstances wouldn't have been available even with all the failures that surrounded those people who were born in the seventies of the last century.

Like other women who were born in the seventies, I started school early, or rather earlier than the others due to some special circumstances. Then I found my work through educating adults. I preferred to stop my work and study in the college which gave me the awareness that my way started there and I had to pursue my studies to gratify my thirst for knowledge. As soon as I finished college, I taught at a high school and then I worked in the university until the mid of nineties. When I finished my Masters degree in Sana'a University, I moved to Morocco and prepared my doctorate degree there and then I came back to continue my academic work.

What prompted you to study for a doctorate?

Work requirements and needs determined my destination early. However, an old yearning continued to have power over me and in the end it succeeded to find its way to me so that I could study both language and literature. This determined my choice in studying at both the Masters and doctorate level.

What are the obstacles that you encountered during and after your study?

Obstacles galore! They have been scattered throughout the way. Having passed these obstacles, I still remember them. I don't want to recall them even though in the end they had their advantages. For instance, these obstacles augmented my determination and boosted my willpower to persist. These obstacles disclosed a new face for me of which I have the right to be proud.

Which of your works do you like more and why?

I like the work that I performed out of satisfaction and desire. They are the most exquisite to me and closest to my memory.

Do all your writings reflect real experiences and feelings in your personal life, or do you try to borrow feelings and events from people around you?

This old question points to an accord between the writer and what she writes. I have to confess that what I write reflects a lot of my life, even though the topic is not about me in the beginning. This is because interacting and dealing with an experience gives the writer a special zest and makes what she writes deeper. It is certain that the writer's works are wider than her individual world and her ambition to more general themes leads her to try to add the experiences of others to her account and adopt some of these experiences when they touch her sentiments. This steps up her writing with a tone that is not purely restricted to the writer or the people of these experiences. Therefore, writing is a mix of two worlds smelt during writing, and becoming one text owned solely by the reader.

Dr. Abdul Aziz Al-Maqaleh described you as, “Ibtisam Al-Mutawakkil: a poetess who penetrates the language.”” Do you think these words really describe you and why?

I am proud of this certificate as it came from the authority Dr. Abdul Aziz Al-Maqaleh. It leaves me standing still without any comment. I can but say that this certificate fills me with great pride and prompts me to rise up and to the level of the good expectations of this innovative man