Mus’id & Mus’idaTraditional Yemeni handicrafts [Archives:2003/635/Last Page]

May 12 2003

Written by Abdulrahman Mutahhar
Translated by Janet Watson

M – What news have you got, Mus'ida? What did your niece say when she called you from London?
Ma – She said that she and her husband send you and the children their love and that you should tell her what you want her to send you from London after you kindly sent her that fenugreek and crushed wheat last week.
M – To be frank, I can't remember what we sent her. All I want to know is that she's well, and if she needs anything you should tell me.
Ma – She just wants to know that you're well too, but she also asked when I would be sending her the agate stones she'd asked me to buy for her.
M – And why on earth does she want this Yemeni agate?
Ma – She just said that the women she's got to know in London really like the agate stones from Yemen. She wants to give them some as a present to show them what's made in Yemen.
M – Why haven't you already gone out and bought the stones and sent them to her?!
Ma – I did go out! I went to the place in the market where they sell agate, but because lots of stones are imported, I couldn't tell which were locally produced and which were imported.
M – That might be a problem. But you should have gone to my brother Nashir. He's one of the few left who can still make agate stones properly. He would have given you beautiful locally made Yemeni agate that would take your breath away.
Ma – That's all very well, Mus'id, but your brother Nashir shut up shop two weeks ago. God give him strength, he's seventy years old!
M – God be merciful to us all in our weakness! That's precisely the problem, Mus'ida.
Ma – It's not a problem at all. They say that if death doesn't overtake you, old age will.
M – Of course, but I mean that Nashir has grown old and his eyesight and strength aren't what they once were; now there are only a couple of other people carrying on this national craftwork, and they're all in the same mould as Nashir. When they all grow too old and weak to work, we can't expect this local handicraft to continue at all.
Ma – But this is ridiculous! Your brother has four grown sons and each of them is as strong as an ox! If they got together to paint Mount Nugum, they'd get it done in a week!
M – You're right there! But you know you can't tell a good ox from looking at it in the yard. You have to see it beneath the yoke! My four nephews, Mus'ida, have risen above the marketplace. They've become all smart and cultured.
Ma – That's their choice! We wouldn't want them to become anything other than smart and cultured, as long as they take one very important thing into consideration.
M – What's that?
Ma – Who worked hard to bring them up and allow them to become smart and cultured in the first place?
M – Quite! That's exactly what I told them at the time. I went over to see my nephews and said to them. Listen here, lads, you can't do anything without getting your hands dirty. Being smart and cultured isn't simply a question of wearing a shirt and tie and putting up lampshades. I'm going to get straight to the point – you should pack in the jobs you're doing at the moment and hang up your shirts and ties, then learn how to do this wonderful local handicraft work from your father before he retires. If you're frightened of a bit of dust, that's easily solved with a bucket of water and a cake of soap!
Ma – Exactly! What I say, Mus'id, is that there's nothing worse than finding yourself in dire straits.
M – That's precisely what I told them! One month you find you can't pay the rent, and the next that you can't pay the telephone, water or electricity bills, or afford to buy the shopping. And all the time you've got a traditional Yemeni skill at your fingertips that you could use for the benefit of yourselves and your children, and which would at least give you some stability and enable you to make ends meet!