By Tamjid Alkohali
Like other artists, Amal Abdulsalam, from Taiz, discovered her drawing talent as a child. She also faces all the difficulties faced by artists in Yemen, a country with a long history and limited possibilities.
However, Abdulsalam has been able to put an imprint on the history of the Yemeni art by presenting more that hundred paintings reflecting many issues and stories of beauty. “I started drawing as a child. Drawing was taking all my time. I wanted to link my talent through studying art but I couldn’t due to the lack of art institutes, so I studied psychology and refined my talent by practicing,” she said.
Abdulsalam continued drawing and imitating the forms around her until she graduated from school. She then started drawing with a specific aim or theme. “In the beginning, the Palestine issue was the main theme in my paintings. I painted the courage of Palestinian children in front of the Zionist oppression, the sorrow of martyrs’ mothers, and many other details. I then turned to focus on my own community,” she added
Abdulsalam’s first exhibition was held in 1993 and included a set surrealism and abstract paintings. In most of her paintings, she portrays Yemen as a woman wearing traditional clothes and playing musical instruments.
“I consider Yemeni artists very lucky with a beautiful environment and cultural heritage where they live, so that helps them to be creative and distinctive from other foreign artists abroad,” she confirmed.
Abdulsalam, who has held 13 solo exhibitions and participated in more than 30 other exhibitions, four of them abroad, always tries to reflect a beautiful image of Yemen. According to her, beauty is the true image of Yemen.
“Yemen is the homeland of beauty and creativity in all aspects of life. Through my paintings, I always try move away from backwardness and ignorance.”
The most prominent painting by Abdulsalam is a painting in which she has drawn as a globe in space. Half of it is covered by Yemeni traditional architecture and the other half with traditional clothing called the Setarah. The Setarah is using for covering the woman’s body. It was worn by women in the past, especially in Sana’a.
Women constitute a semi-permanent presence in the paintings of Abdulsalam. She usually uses women to reflect the positive side of life. “Women are the foundation of society and the key element in most of my art work. They are the land, life, and the best symbol of beauty,” said Abdulsalam.
Abdulsalam doesn’t like to explain the meaning of her paintings. She says that revealing the details of the painting prevents the viewer from wading in its depths, which may make the viewer understand the painting in more beautiful way.
During her artistic career, Abdulsalam has passed many turning points. Recently, her paintings have become more ambiguous. “After 2011, everything changed for the worse in the country due to political conflicts, which made me stop drawing for a period, trying to find a more beautiful world to draw it like I used to do,” she explained.
Abdulsalam says that art movement in Yemen is in a recession because of the current situation. “Yemen has an unlimited number of creative people. If they got the chance, they would become global,” she said hopefully.
According to Abdulsalam’s work as the manager of Bayt Alfan in Taiz, which is considered the only place to refine the talent of many artists, she confirmed that Bayt Alfan wasn’t immune to the bad situation in Yemen, and its works are about to stop.
Despite Abdulsalam’s long artistic career and achievements, she hasn’t won any tangible prizes. “The audience’s encouragement is the only motivation behind my continuation, as the competent authorities don’t support me, nor do other artists,” she said.