Traditional Handicrafts [Archives:1999/51/Culture]

December 20 1999

Among the positive outcomes of the attention the government pays to the traditional heritage has been the establishment of the National Center for Handicrafts. The National Center has played an important role in training people on traditional handicrafts. It is one of 25 centers present in the old city of Sanaa which were all renovated by the Ministry of Tourism and Culture in cooperation with French experts to keep them in their traditional style that stretches back over 250 years. Most of these centers are now used as permanent exhibitions for traditional Yemeni handicrafts, textiles and artwork.
Generally speaking, Yemen has been famous for its traditional handicraft for ages, but what is seen nowadays in the old city, which is considered to be one of the busiest places in the city, is really something special.
One of the departments of the National Center is silversmithery, which is one of the most widely practiced handicrafts in Yemen. Yemen has always been famous for manufacturing silver objects. Old silver bullion and coins are usually imported from rural areas to be reshaped and reformed into many beautiful shapes and designs. The National Center uses these pieces of old silver to make new silver objects. Yemeni silversmiths always participate in exhibitions abroad with countries that have the same concern about silver.
Silver bullion is usually made of three main metals: silver, copper and cadmium. Silver is heated to 90¡ until it becomes bright brown. After this, it is cleaned by special acids. When it is ready in its final shape it is covered with nitric acid which is also used to clean gold in order to make it shiny.
One of the main factors that has helped spread this handicraft in the Arab world has been the immigration of Yemeni craftsmen to other countries. Due to their relatively low price in the Yemeni market, silver bullion is mostly bought here to be sold in other markets. However, it is pleasant to notice that a number of houses and hotels in some of the Arab countries adorn their walls with Yemeni silver.
To avoid the deterioration of this handicraft, the National Center has invited a Lebanese expert to work jointly with a Yemeni expert in training Yemeni craftsmen on such traditional handicrafts.
In fact, the National Center and other similar centers have played a great role in reviving this traditional handicraft that has spread in many places in Yemen, especially the Old City (Sanaa Al-Qadimah.) Tourists and visitors of the Old City and the National Center appreciate this handicraft and the Yemeni craftsmen.
Saleh Abdulbaqi
Cultural Editor