By Tamjid Alkohali
In her room, Kareema, 21-years-old, hides all her paintings. She hides them from her father who never encourages her. He thinks that her paintings bring the devil to the house, in accordance with some Islamic Hadiths. She hides them from her family that doesn’t appreciate them or understand their meaning. She only shows them to her best friend Noor when she visits her.
Kareema discovered her talent when she was a child. She drew everything she saw, using her pencil.
According to Kareema, school was the best time for her because she participated in many school exhibitions. Many teachers and students praised her artwork.
“I have lost hope of becoming a known artist or to open my own exhibition, but painting is still the only way to express the injustice and deprivation I live in,” said Kareema.
Unfortunately, many girls like Kareema have amazing art talents that go unnoticed.
Recently there have been a few lucky female artists who have become well-known, but most of them face obstacles from the family and society.
Artist Sahar Hassan Al-Loutha’ai is considered one of the female artists who has faced many obstacles during her career. She spoke about the obstacles faced by most female artists, mentioning some setbacks in her career.
According to her, the customs and traditions in Yemen are the main obstacles to success. Most fathers don’t like their daughters to be known by others, and they consider drawing a useless activity.
“Unfortunately, awareness of the importance of art is very low. The first reason is because of the deteriorating economic situation and the other reason is because of the political conflict,” said Al-Louthai’ai.
Al-Loutha’ai confirmed that most of the encouragement she got when she was a child, mostly from foreign teachers more than Yemenis.
Beside the encouragement of her family and teacher, she was so lucky with the support of her aunt who got her Bachelor of Fine Arts from Algeria.
“I have learned a lot of techniques about painting from my aunt. She was a talented artist. She has won the presidential prize for drawing, later on she stopped drawing saying isn’t profitable for survival,” said Al-Loutha’ai.
She added that her aunt’s suffering in the plastic arts didn’t make her frustrated. She is aware that plastic art in Yemen is still in its first step and needs time to be important as other fields.
Once Al-Loutha’ai got a chance to participate in an exhibition in Italy. She was chosen by the Tourism Promotion Board in Sana’a. After long time of preparing and coordinating, the trip was canceled. “The exhibition was to show Yemeni heritage through plastic art which would lead to tourism in the country,” explained Al-Loutha’ai.
Another time she was going to open an art exhibition with the global artist Massimo Onnis, but the exhibition was canceled because the British Embassy asked him to return home due to the insecurity and instability in Yemen.
“I will continue drawing because I draw for comfort from life’s pressures,” Al-Loutha’ai said.
Shefaa Alshoaibi is another lucky artist who got encouragement and support from her family.
Alshoaibi expresses women’s issues through her paintings.
She said that women in Yemen can’t express themselves, whether through plastic art, poetry, or any other way.
“I face a lot of criticism every time I display an issue for women in a painting.”
Alshoaibi confirmed that she isn’t free to paint her paintings. She always tries to draw something suitable to the culture of her country because people in Yemen aren’t like other societies that accept whatever the artist offers, especially if this artist is a woman.
On other hand, Alshoaibi spoke positively about plastic arts for woman. In Yemeni society, there is more acceptance for plastic arts than other kinds of arts such as singing and acting, which are considered taboo.
“Fortunately, society accepts woman in plastic arts more than in singing and acting. We just need awareness campaigns about the importance of art,” she added.
Teacher of plastic arts, Hisham Al-Olufy, shared his opinion about the kinds of suffering faced female artists in Yemen.
According to him, there isn’t a real encouragement from the family for their daughters. “Many female artists hesitate in drawing their paintings despite that artists must be bold and free in their paintings,” said Al-Olufy.
He added that there aren’t real chances given to female artists in Yemen. For example, they can’t participate in exhibitions or travel abroad. Men aren’t restricted by time and place.