Sculpture is what you make out of what you want [Archives:2007/1018/Culture]

January 22 2007

Saddam Al-Ashmori
For Yemen Times

Sculpture is created from the imagination and the more “out there” it is, the more an artist is noticed for his or her work. When asked, sculptors will readily speak about their art. Morshed Ali Sanad is one such distinctive artist known for his wood carved monuments, who aims at being innovative.

Married with nine children, this 63-year-old illiterate man originally from Mahwit notes that he didn't receive a formal education, only that he “studied several parts of the Qur'an in Al-Me'alama.”

How did you discover your talent?

I began by sculpting a replica of the presidential palace when I was 15 years old. One of my relatives thought I was gifted, so he asked me to work with him as a carpenter. I was full of energy and believed I could do something really innovative when Sana'a was the 2004 Cultural Capital. As my children grew up and worked, I began sculpting more statues and palaces at home.

What sculptures have you made and what was the most difficult?

The most important sculptures I've made are a guard house in Bab Al-Sabah; the old Sana'a palace consisting of three floors and a splendid view (when viewing from the top); the mountainous amphitheater in Shihara, the hanging village; a Yafe'e house with all its unique parts; a vineyard in Bani Hishaish and the Haraz house. I chose the last ones because of their unique designs and to depict the differences in architecture in each governorate.

The most difficult piece was Dar Al-Hajar, which took me nine months to carve. It's the largest known replica of the original Dar Al-Hajar, consisting of 21 detachable wood pieces. I used a scale drawing representing the actual size of Dar Al-Hajar with a corresponding ratio to the size of the drawing of the model. Weighing approximately 100 kg., the statue is 1.6 meters high by 2.2 meters wide. Four wheels hidden inside the structure allow its movement from place to place.

What makes you distinctive and different?

I'm the first Yemeni sculptor to use wood skillfully. I create statues such as qamariyyas, carpets, and shisha, completely in wood, right down to any plumbing inside the statues, their windows, doors and lighting. Other sculptors normally use gypsum, even in the minute pieces.

What are the tools of your trade?

I normally use carpentry tools such as a file, a pair of tongs, a saw and a ruler.

Have you held or participated in any exhibits to present your work?

I contributed six statues in two exhibits at the Culture House and presented the Dar Al-Hajar replica at the Mahwit festival. I've also received various invitations to participate in national art functions. Lastly, China requested the participation of several Yemeni sculptors, of which I was one of the candidates; however, the event subsequently was cancelled and I'm unaware of the reason for that.

When sculpting your statues, what do you depend on and do you take any photographs?

I usually see them and then visualize the picture in my mind. I depend a lot on my memory and because I'm a carpenter, that helps me understand the entire architecture and its specific details. I sometimes see something on television and consequently sculpt it as it is. For example, I saw Shihara on television, I guessed regarding its true size and then made a scale drawing to correspond to the real object.

What are your current statues?

I'm working on a statue of Baraqish, the historical city located in Al-Jawf, depicting the city's fences, gates, houses, palaces, guard houses and all of the other components.