The author is Director of The British Council, Wales.
Strong ties between Wales and Yemen derive from the times when Welsh coal was stockpiled in Aden to provide fuel to British ships going out to the Far East. From that time the Yemeni community in Wales stands as one of the oldest ethnic communities in the UK. Friends of this community and of the Yemen celebrated these links with the Yemeni festival in Wales in i997, and then in 2001 approached British Council Wales with a request for support for further artistic exchanges between the two countries.
It was decided to set up a three-year residency exchange using the conduit of the British Council offices in the two countries to identify and administer the programme. The programme was to be not only artistic but also academic; host institutions in the two countries would be centres where teaching could benefit from the enrichment of a new source of artistic thinking and production. The University of Wales Institute Cardiff, Department of Art and Design, and the Swansea Institute of Higher Education, School of Art and Design, both expressed interest in acting as hosts in the exchange programme. So, after an exploratory visit from Sana’a in 2002, Najween Al-Atef from the Aden Institute of Art was identified as the first artist to start the residency programme. Welcome support was provided for the visit by the British- Yemeni Society as well as generous accommodation and materials by the two Institutions concerned.
Najween Al-Atef arrived In the UK on 30 March 2003 and spent her first three weeks at the University of Wales Institute Cardiff. She worked there in the silk screen paint section as well as in ceramics. In both departments she was able to work with specialists in those fields and produce pieces of work which she was able to take back with her to the Yemen as well as leaving prints and copies in the UK. At Swansea Institute of Higher Education she extended her own expertise in design to transfer some of her ideas on to glass - one of the major strengths of the Institute. She also worked on photography, one of her major interests, coming as she does from a background of industrial design (one of her major projects in Yemen is to produce more attractively designed support equipment for the disabled such as wheel chairs and appliances).
Through the good offices of Anis Shamsan, a Yemeni who has lived in Britain for some years and has himself worked with disabled minority groups in both Cardiff and Birmingham, Najween was also able to visit galleries in Birmingham, Liverpool and London. In London she was guest of the British- Yemeni Society at a lunch on Friday 9 April attended by the Yemeni Ambassador to Britain.
The success of this first leg of the residency exchange can be largely attributed to the wide range of skills that Najween brought to her work in Cardiff and Swansea, but also to her charm and adaptability on what, it was hard to believe, was her first visit outside the Arab world. As an ambassador for Yemen she proved delightful, as an artist she was skilled and perceptive and alert to the potential application of arts from the two countries to her own sector of interest. The next leg of the residency programme will take place in Yemen in late 2003/early 2004 with an artist chosen from the two Welsh Institutes.
Bill Heber Percy, Pat and Charles Aithie, Jennifer Spencer-Davies, Douglas Gordon and Julian Paxton are all to be thanked for contributing to the success of the visit, and most especially, of course, Chris O’Neil and John Howes at the two Institutes. A special mention too for Kim at Cardiff and Andrea Liggins at Swansea as well as Khadija and Adrian at the British Council in Sana’a.
We all look forward to the next stage - an outward visit from Wales to Yemen later this year or early next.
Hundreds of thousands of Yemenis descended Thursday (Aug 24) on Sanaa in a major show to celebrate of the 35th anniversary of the General People's Congress (GPC) founding anniversary.
The rally marking 35 years since the founding the General People's Congress (GPC).
The streets of the capital, waving the blue flag of the GPC and carrying pictures of Saleh the leader of GPC.
At least 71 citizens were killed and wounded by warplanes from the Saudi-led aggression coalition on Sanaa province early on Wednesday morning, a security official said.
The air strikes hit a hotel in Bait al-Edhari area in Arhab district,
Saudi aggression warplanes launched seven air strikes on Saada province overnight, an official said on Wednesday.
The targeted places were the regular road in Al-Sheikh area of Monabah district, Alhbrah area of Razeh district, the directorate of Al-Taher and Shada directorate.
The strikes severely damaged civilian properties, said the official.
Armed forces' spokesman Brigadier General, Sharaf Luqman said the army and popular forces have provided the greatest sacrifices to defend the homeland against Saudi-led aggression forces, stressing on maintaining the internal unity.
In a press statement on Monday, Luqman said that the historical steadfastness and the cohesion of the Yemeni people represent the first defense line against the aggression states.