Presenting Yemeni Art to the World [Archives:1997/44/Culture]

November 3 1997

Adel J. Moqbil, Yemen Times
The title may be too grand, but the 2nd Exhibition of Yemeni Contemporary Art hosted by the American Ambassador, Mr. David Newton, on October 28 and 29 was attended by a large crowd from the expatriate community in Sanaa. Just about everybody who is anybody was there. “Our main aim is to encourage Yemeni artists and let them be seen by the foreign community in Sanaa,” said Mr. Newton. That has certainly been achieved. Thirty-three Yemeni artists – from the pioneers to the new comers – have taken part in the exhibition, which many considered a unique opportunity for the artists to come together, to see and be seen. The first such exhibition to have been hosted by the American Ambassador was held in 1995. Only 20 artists took part then, not all Yemeni though. This time, the exhibition is wholly by Yemeni artists, all of them showing new paintings to be exhibited for the first time. Also, there are 5 female artists taking part in the exhibition. They are Ikhlas Mansoor, Ashwaq Faisal Kaid, Ilham Al-Arshi, Amna Al-Nasiri, and Rema Kasem. The exhibition’s other main objective is of a charitable nature. “All the money from ticket sales and 10% of paintings’ sales would go to Mother Teresa’s Mission of Charity,” announced the Ambassador. According to Mr. Adam Ereli, the Director of US Information Service, and Mr. Ted Seal of the American Embassy, about $3,000 to $4,000 was raised during the first exhibition. About $3,000 from ticket sales and a similar amount from paintings sales are expected this time. The artists would, of course, receive 90% of the money from the sale of their paintings. The well-known Yemeni artist Kamal Al-Makrami said, “the good thing about this exhibition is that it has brought together artists from different parts of Yemen, and a nicely designed color catalogue has been published through the sponsorship of several Yemeni and foreign organizations and companies.”
Commercialism is a swear word in the art world. “I don’t paint to sell,” said the artist Saeed Alawi who is an architect by profession, adding, “although I’m a realist painter, I paint what I love, not what the market might want to see.” For Alawi and many other Yemeni painters, selling their paintings helps them buy the necessary, rather expensive raw material. “We all need moral as well as material rewards,” said Alawi.
Another artist, Ali Al-Dharhani, expressed his delight for the exhibition. He said: “The paintings on display show that Yemeni art is gradually becoming free of its old restrictions. This does not mean, however, that Yemeni artists are severing their work from the heritage of their society. They are freer now to experiment with their subject matter. Although there is no distinct overall direction, but there are some quite mature individual experiments.” Let’s leave the last word to the critics. Amna Al-Nasiri, the celebrated Yemeni female artist and art critic, is quite optimistic for the future of the Yemeni plastic arts movement. “Although the general prospect is still somewhat foggy and the Yemeni art has no distinct features yet, the view is clearer now,” she said, adding, “compared to other countries in the Gulf or even Egypt and Iraq where the plastic art movement is older than in Yemen, Yemeni art is well on its way to have a unique identity.”

Kamal Al-Makrami
* Master’s Degree in Oil Painting, Higher Institute of Fine Arts,    Moscow, 1989. * Various National & International Exhibitions. * Two Personal Exhibitions in Sana’a

Ikhlas Mansoor
* Born in 1974, Taiz. * Diploma of Art from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 1996. * Various National Exhibition. _________________

Talal Al-Najar

* Born in 1964, Taiz. * 1974-83 Studied Oil Painting under the Artist Hashim Ali. * Master’s Degree in Oil Painting, Higher Institute of Arts,    Moscow, 1992. * Working at the Art Dept., Ministry of Culture & Tourism. * National & International Exhibitions. * Founding member of Modern Art Group. _________________

Saeed Alawy

* Born in 1955, Al Baidha. * B. Sc. in Architecture, Cairo, 1982. * Higher Diploma in Urban Housing 1989, Holland. * Master’s Degree in Urban Management, Erasmus Univ., Rotterdam,    Holland, 1993. * Various national & International Exhibitions since 1973. * Founding Member of ‘Modern Art Group’. __________________

A’amna Al-Nasiri

* Born in Rada’a, 1967. * Master’s Degree in History of Art, State Academy of Art,    Moscow,1994. * Working as an Art Critic. * Teaching at Sana’a University. * First Solo Exhibition, 1996. * Various National & International Exhibitions. ___________________

Saad Bakr Ambarak

* Born in 1964, Abyan. * Master’s Degree in Fine Arts, Kiev, Ukraine, 1994. * Various National & International Exhibitions. * 1987 First Solo Exhibition, Al-Hosn.

Ashwaq Faisal Kaid

* Born in 1965. * National & International Exhibitions. * Interior Decorations. * Stained Glass Works.

Ali Al Darhani

* Born in 1960, Dhamar. * Diploma in Arabic Calligraphy, Alexandria, 1987. * BA Degree in Fine Arts, Graphic Department, 1987. * First Solo Exhibition, 1983. * Various National & International Exhibitions. * Director of Fine Arts Department, Aden.