On 1st July 2022, generation 9 held the exhibition Al Yemen al saeed: Arabia Felix? السعيد اليمن, at ENTRE Gallery. It was an interactive art exhibition created for the Angewandte Festival featuring multimedia works by contemporary Yemeni artists. The exhibition aimed to actively raise a certain kind of awareness about Yemen that is lacking in mainstream media channels. It highlighted the culturally rich aesthetic practices, optimism and resilience of contemporary artists and Yemeni people in the face of the ongoing war.
The exhibition, jointly curated by our interdisciplinary students of the Vienna Master’s Programme in Applied Human Rights at die Angewandte, featured works by artists Somaya Abduallah, Asim Abdulaziz, Mariam Al-Dhubhani, Osama Khaled, Ali Al sunidar, Nezar Moqbel, and Ibi Ibrahim.
Looking at the work of contemporary Yemeni artists and human rights research, the title of the exhibition offered a new take on a common phrase: Al Yemen al saeed, السعيد اليمن,’ happy Yemen’, or Arabia Felix?— taken from the Latin origin and accompanied by a question mark. The gesture of the question was foundational to the project and forced reflection on the ongoing and persistent international media
coverage of the crisis in Yemen. As widely known, Yemen is in the midst of a war so devastating that the United Nations has called it the worst humanitarian crisis of our time. Simultaneously, examples of Yemen’s breathtaking natural beauty and timeless cultural heritage, although under protection of UNESCO, are in danger of being forgotten and thus lost in a Forgotten War, thereby disappearing from global
Against this background, the interdisciplinary human rights students did not see it as an option to call a war “forgotten” but rather a call to remember Yemen while creating new forms of collective action. “Awareness of the future of Yemen should not only be limited to the Yemeni people, but must penetrate the hearts and minds of all of us” said the students.
The collaborators on the exhibition whished to provide visitors with a multi-faceted view of Yemen, drawn from the everyday hopes and experiences of Yemenis living in the country or in the diaspora. Al Yemen al saeed: Arabia Felix? السعيد اليمن offered a multifaceted vantage point through a diverse selection of artworks. Photographs, films, a slideshow and a virtual reality experience by the seven participating artists was embedded by the co-curators in an exhibition format supported by sensory experiences. The exhibition began with a cup of Yemeni coffee at the entrance, continued with the dialogic format of the Diwan to reflect on the artists’ work, and extended beyond the gallery with urgent questions raised in the context of the exhibition and ways to offer support. The seven artists’ works touch on themes ranging from youthful rebellion and dreams to the documentation of Yemeni architecture and traditions. What all the works had in common, however, was a deep expression of love for the Yemeni people, accompanied by the underlying question of how hope still survives both within Yemen and for those who want to return.
Special thanks to the artists who participated for offering their impressive works to the Angewandte Festival and to local Yemeni communities for generously sharing their cultural and traditional objects.