By Jihan Anwer
The Kingdom of the Netherlands Embassy, in conjunction with the Spanish Embassy and Yemeni Mobile company, organized a photography exhibition this past Tuesday. The Green Yemen Exhibition featured work and photos by Yemeni photographers Mohammed Al-Fadhli and Ebrahim Al-Sharif.
The pictures showcase contradictory scenes of an Ibb rich with green landscapes alongside captured moments which reflect the reality of a water crisis in other governorates.
Mohammed Al-Fadhli, better known as Abu Malik, is a self-taught photographer who since childhood was inspired by Yemen’s beauty to take up a photographic career. He considers Ibb to be a natural museum, suitable for refreshing minds, hearts, souls and thoughts.
Ebrahim Al-Sharif is a self-taught 26-year-old photojournalist. His pictures have earned him two highly-prestigious photography awards in the Arab World. His work has been featured by National Geographic International. Al-Sharif is also a representative of the Union of Arab Photographers in Yemen and works for Al-Sharaq Stock Photo Gallery in Jordan and Kalimat English Magazine in London.
H.E. Jeroen Verheul, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Netherlands, took the opportunity during his opening speech for the exhibition to point toward Yemen’s urgent need to review its water resource management policies.
German Ambassador H.E. Holger Green remarked how stunning it was to witness, through pictures, the reality of both a ‘green Yemen’ and a Yemen which faces water shortage issues. “High population growth will also have an impact on water usage,” Mr. Holger said. “Yemen’s population is expected to reach 50 million over the next 20 years…I don’t see how certain parts of the country are going to provide water for their population if major reforms are not promptly undertaken.”
Commenting on the Netherlands’ interest in the water crisis issue, Mr. Verheul mentioned how the Netherlands had to defend the waters surrounding its country. “We had to manage water for centuries and we are now focusing on translating that experience to help deal with the situation in Yemen.”
The Charge d’Affaires for the Spanish embassy added, “We are both European countries with historically good relations and we came together to organize the exhibition because we share the same concerns over water. The Kingdom of the Netherlands learned about water management to deal with an abundance of water, while in Spain we needed to deal with a scarcity of water.”
The Spanish and Dutch government representatives agreed that beyond that, they both shared an interest in Yemeni culture and sought channels through which they could enable talented Yemenis to gain a stage.
The Spanish Embassy announced that it would be hosting another exhibition in November focusing on the work of Arnia, a female Yemeni painter who is also a teacher at Sana’a University. On November 15, there will be a concert featuring a Spanish guitarist playing alongside the “Amigos,” a Yemeni flamenco group.
Al-Sharif, who coordinated the exhibition with the embassies but couldn’t participate in person, was quoted as saying, “I am a photographer and I know what a passion for photography means to us. When I met Abu Malik, I saw a real hero who challenged all obstacles to show hidden sides of Yemen. Also, I was shocked to discover the treasures of natural photography he possessed.
He is so inspired by every single part of Ibb, so I decided to be in touch with the Spanish Ambassador in Yemen, Javier Hergueta, to make Abu Malik’s wish comes true as a simple reward for his great work for Yemen.”
Abu Malik said, “One objective I had in exhibiting these particular pictures was to let people discover some breathtaking views of Yemen. Many people are still surprised when they see the pictures and wonder if they were really taken in Yemen. The other goal was to bring into view the importance of preserving our natural treasures. I think a picture is a perfect way to bring these issues to light. You see people today and they are all smiling and discussing the photos. Had we approached the water crisis problem at a conference, you certainly would have encountered few happy faces but endless arguments.”