Times are not exactly easy in Yemen at present, with at stretches daily news, since June 2009, on warfare activities in the Northern regions, kidnappings, executions, menaces, and then in the South, strives to separate, with roads (as life arteries) blocked, supplies of petrol and diesel interrupted, and manoeuvre moves being carried out.
One might be tempted to think that it is just not the right time for cultural manifestations and formats like the Cultural Weeks 2009. Under the umbrella of “Networks of Trust”, these mark the 40th anniversary of Yemeni-German diplomatic relations, and are an initiative by the German Foreign Office and the Goethe Institute, the latter being represented by the German House Sana’a & Aden. Since June, artists cancel their engagements in Yemen, or their engagements have to be cancelled for security reasons.
One tends to forget, however, that daily life in the capital still goes on as normal, and Yemeni artists’ life does, too. When projects are cancelled, it will be more and more difficult to justify them once again later, while on the other hand, warfare activities seem far away. The sheer talent that the Yemeni photo artists display is unique and reason to having favoured this art project, and if it were just for the role of Yemeni artists as to catalyze bits of reality to a wider public.
To some, the initial working title was being felt as too politically inclined. “Traces of Separation, Signs of Unity” was meant to refer to the developments after Yemeni unification out of two pre-1990 Yemeni states. The approach was to parallel the exhibition titled “Deutschlandbilder” by Berlin’s Ostkreuz-Agency that the Goethe Institute made available for an exhibit in Sana’a and Aden. These images, roughly said, may not necessarily reflect local viewers’ expectations, as it is not a depiction of beautiful Germany. Rather, the approach is a realistic look at the state of affairs in Germany. At the time of planning the Yemeni photo workshop, there were none of the faintest traces of a new outburst of a crisis in the North (believed settled), or of public calls for separation and uproar in the South, however a look at the state of affairs in Yemen was due.
This is the outlook of the project. In a workshop, the focus was being laid on serial photography which has not been that common in Yemen. Publications of the German editor Hatje & Cantz served as an inspiration for developing their own subjective line of argumentation, or statements. Even more inspiring was the gradually deepening exchange with the photographers who got more and more into “their” story. Stories they needed to tell, topics that kept occupying or following them for a long time.
The results are pointed positions of engaged young women and men. By no means were the series influenced or instigated by the given input, and it must be added, too, that the selected topics, after all, are being discussed up and down in advanced Yemeni media and do now, in addition, find their visual impact.
I am grateful therefore, that the German Cultural Weeks 2009, after all, do offer the framework for the exhibition that is being presented. I am even more grateful to the Yemeni participants: for them, the exhibition Zoom on Sana’a, the city where political decisions are being made after all, means a breakthrough. Read More...
Sana’a, October 2009
Guido Zebisch, Curator
Director of the German House Sana’a & Aden
Consultant of the Goethe Institute
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