Yemeni Women Between Ambition and Tradition

National Yemen

Yemeni Women Between Ambition and Tradition

By Tamjid Alkohlai

“We are forgotten in our country.” Talking about the field of culture, arts, acting and singing in a traditional society is a foregone conclusion; there is no need to discuss it. Although art in all its forms is an expression of life and its details, it is also a beautiful way to improve societies. Yet art is an unimportant thing in Yemen, as singers, actors, artist, and so on are considered from lower classes. What about if this singer or actress is a woman?

Although few women enter artistic circles, there are a number of successful names in this field, especially outside the country. Those women repeat all the time that they are forgotten in Yemen.

Houria Rayashi started practicing her talent as a singer in school. Despite her young age, many actors, singers, and poets praised her performance, voice, and self-confidence. “Prevent women from entering art circles is different from one family to another. According to woman’s insistence and her family’s appreciation of her talent, she can achieve her dream and prove herself, noting that she may get objections from other members of the family like brothers, and uncles,” said Rayashi.

She added that they face they bad view from society by convincing them that art is a Semitic message. It doesn’t conflict with customs, traditions, and values.

According to Rayashi, singing contains strong tones and meaningful words and serves society. Yet vulgar songs are forgotten quickly.

Rayashi considers herself as a lucky woman. She doesn’t face any obstacles from family or society. Instead she gets encouragement. “I didn’t think to start my singing career outside the county. I believe that Yemen is the source of art and cultural heritage, but that doesn’t prevent me to participating in concerts outside the country,” she said.

Rayashi is optimistic about the future of feminist art in Yemen. She says that the attitude of society has improved because of new media and modern communications that have turned the world into a small village. It has also encouraged people to accept new things.

Guitarist Methal Mohammed, who was chosen among three Yemeni ambitious women on International Women’s Day, says that her society prevents girls from doing things such as art, singing, and acting. Society doesn’t appreciate these fields. They consider them wasting time, adding to the traditions which make women do specific things that don’t involve interaction with men, because those who deal with men are considered bad women.

Mohammed talked about herself, saying that she started playing music in school when she bought a guitar, but she couldn’t play guitar because of the lack of music Institutes where she lived. Instead, she waited until she moved to Sana’a but still couldn’t join an institute because it was too expensive. Therefore, she started to learn through watching videos in internet. “My first experience playing guitar was in 2012. The most difficult thing was people’s view of me. I heard many bad words because I’m a girl carrying guitar, but I realized that there are people love to hear me playing guitar, even if they are few,” she added.

Mohammed plays guitar for herself and for people who appreciate her. About the future of feminist art in Yemen, she is optimistic that more people respect her than before.

Photographer Nadia Abdullah also talked about her experience, saying that she started taking photos in 2011 in Change Square in Sana’a. Her aim was to convey events from Change Square through her photos. She took photos of martyrs, the wounded, women and children. ” I was free to take photos for anything, any event, and any time. There weren’t any obstacles in front of us because the media was an essential part and a basic tool of the revolution’s tools,” she added

“The only difficult thing is that there were places I couldn’t reach because sometimes it was dangerous for me to be there. In the beginning it was strange for people that a girl had a camera and was taking photos in such place, but later they accepted me and I found many people encouraged me,” she explained.

In Abdullah’s view, preventing woman from being a photographer, singer, or actress is due to customs and traditions and because most of those who enter the art world break customs and traditions. This reflects a bad picture of women in cultural fields such as singing and acting. “Society needs to a group of singers who offer good art that mixes with traditions and principles of society like Fairouz and Umm Kalthoum,” she said.

TV director Ibtisam al-Haidari sees the situation differently. According to her, Yemeni society is a medial community. It adapts quickly with development and progress and it accepts all things. Therefore, Yemeni women can succeed in any field.

“I don’t see a blockade imposed on Yemeni women. There are many famous women in cultural fields such as painting, acting, singing, radio, and TV. However, the only thing that makes the situation difficult is customs and traditions which start to disintegrate because they don’t have a basis,” she said. “Those who can prove themselves realize the importance of art in spreading and documenting society’s culture and they offer art that keeps with Yemeni and Islamic identity.”

Al-Haidari emphasized that women’s future in the culture field will be great because Yemeni women aim to offer value for society.