July 6, 2015

EU host Yemeni photographers: Art for social change


*Written by Nina Aqlan- Programme Officer Yemen

Although turmoil continues in Yemen and violence persists, its times like these when art can provide a therapeutic safe haven and serve as a dynamic tool to impact and express social change. Art creates a space that generates open expression, freedom, healing and most importantly, hope. Earlier this year, SPARK sponsored a photography exhibition bringing together talented young female Yemeni photographers Bushra Al Fusail, Maha Senan, Arwa Al-Hubaishi and Rooj Al-Wazir in Sanaa to showcase their portraits of Yemeni women in celebration of Women’s Day on March 8th, 2015. Their work highlighted the different struggles Yemeni women face in their everyday lives whether at work, out on the streets, in the rural outskirts or within society in general. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words and these striking images of Yemeni women provide immense insight into how societal values can entrap individuals. Although it was a small event in size with a modest contribution, the importance of holding such an event that promotes women rights, youth activism, talent and expression, even in a time of conflict and instability, is necessary and has resonated significantly.

Recognizing the significance and influence of art, the European Union paved a way for these young and talented Yemeni women to exhibit their photographs once again and gave them a platform with greater reach to spread their message. This month the EU organised exhibitions in both Paris on June 8th and Brussels on June 15th that showcased their work of Yemeni women. The EU hosted events were a great success, attracting more than 500 attendees in both Paris and Brussels. Al Fusail, Senan, Al-Hubaishi and Al-Wazir were all able to make it to the exhibition and share their work. There were also other Yemeni public figures and artists in attendance including the renowned award winning film maker Khadija Al Salami based in Paris for the premiere of her latest film called “I Am Nojoom, Age 10 and Divorced”.

The exhibitions in Paris and Brussels did stimulate a lot of dialogue about the current on-going conflict in Yemen; however, the focus of the event fell on emphasizing the importance and impact of art for social change as well as generating global awareness about Yemen and the lives of its people.

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Photos by John Stapels