The Problems of Emigration  from Yemen in Paintings [Archives:1999/25/Last Page]

June 21 1999

From ancient times, the people of Yemen have migrated to many countries, and have spread to the far corners of the world. The spread of Islam over many parts of the globe, primarily in North Africa, South East Asia and East Africa, was due to the large movement of Yemenis to these areas over the ages.
Chroniclers claim that the collapse of the Great Dam of Mareb marked the beginning of these movements. But historical studies affirm that these movements went much farther back, to hundreds of years before the dam collapsed.
Wherever the Yemenis went, however, Yemen’s Art and Literature, the people’s means of expression, was always there, reflecting their hopes and fears, their successes and failures, their progress and decay, their victories and defeats.
Yemeni poets and writers, past and present, have supplied us with substantial materials that reveal their people’s historical predicaments, of which the problem of emigration takes first place. However, the art of painting, has just recently became known and practiced by the Yemeni artists as an aesthetic means of expression.
The first Yemeni Immigrants Conference, held in Sanaa recently, was a good opportunity for Yemeni painters to reveal their creative talents and to depict their perspectives of this centuries old Yemeni phenomenon.
Predictably, women were to get the greatest attention in this emerging art. More often than not, it is the man who leaves his country, leaving the poor woman alone to carry on with the hardships of life and sometimes, the responsibilities of sustenance for the household. For example, one of these paintings shows a woman who has been left alone to swallow the agonies of waiting for her companion, whose return date is never set. She passes the time counting the days and nights for the hopeful day when her husband returns. (See picture at left)
On the other hand, other women would engage themselves in doing meaningful work, instead of spending time in counting the hours or days. This practical solution helps them to kill two birds with one stone. First, work helps them to get over the pains of separation and deprivation. Second, they are provided with a means of livelihood.. The painting of the two working girls shows the vitality and satisfaction that is often derived from work.
For young women whose men are far away, receiving letters is a time of happiness and hope. Once any of them gets a letter from her absent husband, her imagination would carry her away to recall the presence of the dear one through his words. Perhaps this temporary relief is the reason for the girl’s speculation in the painting at the top left. The letter finally comes and this time it comes while she is on the farm working. She is happy to get it, though she is not yet aware of the letter’s content.
The paintings shown here are some of the better pieces from the Painting Fair organized by a group of Yemeni painters at the Sheraton Hotel. Their sensitivity towards, and awareness of, the pain of emigrate have been depicted in their paintings.
The Ministry of Culture and Tourism should help help and encourage these painters.