Sana’a hosts top Italian artists [Archives:2004/770/Culture]

September 6 2004
Yemeni and Italian artists working together in the workshop
Yemeni and Italian artists working together in the workshop
By Shaker Al-Molsi
Yemen Times Staff

Among all that is going on in Sana'a in 2004, while it holds the title of Arab Cultural Capital, a joint Yemeni-Italian artistic workshop has been organized by the Ministry of Culture, and the Italian Embassy at Sana'a. Yemeni and Italian artists are working together, exchanging experiences and adding to the glamour of the celebrated city and at the end of the workshop, a gallery will be opened to expose its fruits

Italian ambassador at the workshop
His Excellency Italian ambassador Giacomo Sanfelice attended the Atelier, and visited various artists to observe how things were going on. He declared himself “very pleased” with the works that covered the walls.
This particular workshop was the initiative of the Sicily-based Orestiadi Foundation, an establishment that sponsors and produces events in the world of theater, visual arts, music and poetry, as well as scientific, publishing and professional training. On his visit to Yemen, the chairman of the Foundation was received by the Minister of Culture and Tourism Khaled Al-Rowaishan, and they discussed together the possibility of contact between Italian and Yemeni artists.
“As the headquarters of the foundation are in Sicily, it could get in touch with well-known contemporary painters, and sculptors.
Two Italian artists agreed to come and participate in this workshop,” elaborated the ambassador.
He is optimistic about the outcome of the workshop. “I do believe that such an exchange is very fruitful for both sides.

I am happy to see that Italian and Yemeni painters are working enthusiastically together, and I am convinced that we should continue on this way, and keep having this kind of cooperation. The works themselves are very much a testimony of how positive and enriching the fact of working with artists from different country, culture, and experience can be.”

Special program:
The Italian embassy, as part of the celebrations of the Arab Cultural Capital, organized a series of programs, in which featured this workshop.
At the beginning of this year, there was an exhibition on Islam in Sicily, which included concerts by an Italian band, and the presentation of a book of Arabic poetry composed during the 11-12th century occupation of Sicily by Arabs.
In the second half of September there will be concerts by an Italian band and in December the Week of Italian Film will take place, screening a spectrum of contemporary works of the Italian cinema.

Post-modernist blaze:
Alfredo Romano and Baldo Diodato are the two Italian guests. Romano is a celebrated
artist who attended the Institute of Art of Siracusa before joining the Berara's Academy. He taught art as well, and is better known as a sculptor, and specialized in the association of various elements which push the artist and the public thoughts towards a continuous reference to history and reality.
“Women, and what they look like,” he replied to a question about what attracted his attention in Yemen, pointing to two tin bowls piled on each other with black cloths around their mouths. “This symbolizes them, doesn't it?”
Romano continued: “Yemen is an extraordinary country with a culture that is different from the Italian one, but that surely shares with some similarities, because the Ottoman Empire influenced Italy considerably in the past.”
“Contemporary art here is a traditional kind of painting. Artists still use the old-fashioned painting language. They need to evolve, and this (workshop) is an opportunity, and more exchanges will expose them to other techniques, minds and ways of painting,” he commented on the post-modernist trend in Yemen.
“Nevertheless, they are excellent and admirable people.”
Around him, bowls littered the wall with mouths covered with pieces of black cloth, and backs facing viewers, and were arranged neatly in rows. Each appeared as a white circle with a black rim.
“”It is like a deaf song,” said Romano referring to his work. “The song is there but has no sound.”
“I have stopped using color in my works and adopted a new and more communicable language. It looks like a mural. It does not seem that artists here have this kind of art, murals. This very work of mine can be described as an evolution of murals,” he explained.
The window sills were painted in a way that “brings life to a window that was dead, and the work itself enlivens a dead room.”
But, he does not claim the superiority of this kind of art. “It may not be better, but definitely it is different,” Romano said.
Artist Baldo Diodato was born in Naples, and attended the Albertine Academy. He lived in New York from 1966-1992, where he had been in contact with the post-modernism community, but he now lives and works in Rome, adopting an unusual kind of art. He would look at things around him, choose, and decide to arrange them in a particular way.
Before him were three rough square pieces, two blue and one yellow. Made of metal sheets, the 1×1 meter hollow pieces had tiny lamps mounted on tips of wires emanating from their surfaces. “The blue ones represent sea and sky, and the yellow one earth. They will be joined as one entity, making a spectacular scene especially at night,” he described.
Diodato is so impressed by Yemen. “I love it. It is incredible. Light, houses, color. The color yellow is prevalent here in earth and on houses as well. It is the color of my city, Naples, and this is why Yemen is familiar to me and why I was inclined to participate in this workshop.”

Sana'a Atelier:
It was established in 2000 by Yemeni artists Mazher Nizar, Talal Al-Naggar, Dr.Amna Al-Nassiri, and Reema Kassem, in the aim of creating a new movement and to develop the indigenous modern artstyle. A gallery was opened within the wall of the old city of Sana'a, at Bab Al-Yemen, for displaying and selling works of arts as well as promoting culture and tourism.
“This workshop is very beneficial. Among the Yemeni artists are the founders of the Atelier along with Hani Al-Aghbari and Jamal Al-Hada. The products of the Yemeni-Italian workshop will be shown in the exhibition room (Al-Bab Gallery) on Sept. 5,” said Mazher Nizar.
He proceeded: “Actually the gallery was opened in 1998, but due to problems of tourism, it was closed down and activities ceased for a long time. Recently I have officially rented the gallery where many activities will be taking place, thanks to efforts of Dr. Abdullah Zaid Issa, president of the Historic Cities Conservation Authority.
“The two top Italian artists have got together with six Yemeni artists, and there are plans to organize workshops and exhibitions for local and foreign artists in the future.”
The gallery will also provide tourist information such as maps and postcards along with an information center.
“The information center, coupled with Internet services, is expected to provide information on Yemen as a whole especially for tourists, but we need someone to sponsor it. It would be extremely useful as it is situated at a strategic spot'”
On the other hand, artist Talal Al-Naggar commented on the workshop saying: “It is the first of its kind to be held in Yemen. It is both important and interesting, since it features works of post-modernism. The public may be surprised or rather mystified by the works, but they are exquisite.”
He added: “In the past, we used to host almost amateur artists. But this time I was amazed when I heard the names of the visitors. They are really great.”
The workshop is expected to help develop the reality of art in Yemen, and enhance cultural ties between Yemen and Italy.
The artists participating in this workshop will attend another workshop to be organized in Italy in November 2004.