Category Archives: Literature

​Modern Yemeni Theatre: A Brief History

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Yemeni novelists and playwrites  Nadiah al-Kokabany, Wagdi al-Ahdal, Ali al-Moqri and Samir Abdul-Fatah

by Sara Forcella

Over the past two centuries, Yemen has been the scene of an important literary flowering. Despite the never-ending struggle of play-writers against the socio-political difficulties of the country, the emergence of the Modern Yemeni Theatre doubtless represents an example both of an innovative and high value literary production. Continuously facing social, political and cultural problems, Yemeni authors and players have always shown a great capability of keeping up with the times. Their works talk about doubts, questions, passions and issues of the modern man, going beyond the “local” dimension and constantly dialoguing with their Western counter-parts.

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Sa‘īd ‘Awlaqī

According to Saʿīd ʿAwlaqī (Sabʿūna ʿāmān min al-masraḥ fī-al-Yaman [Seventy Years of Yemen Theatre], 1983), the first information available about the early Yemeni dramas dates back to 1904 when the Indian acting company of Jamlat Shah came to Aden. The company went on stage with a mostly musical performance involving all its members, namely actors, dancers, musicians and circus animals. However, it was not until 1910 that the first Yemeni theatrical company was established in Aden, consisting of students that acted out a western play, Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, in Arabic. As al-Mubarak (Arabic Drama, A Critical Introduction, 1986) wrote, these first companies adopted the western model of playwriting once they came in direct contact with it during the 19th century, both in Greater Syria (the ancient region including Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and the Palestine territories till the collapse of the Ottoman empire in 1918) and Egypt. Western models melded with previous forms of Arabic art performances, spanning the traditional shadow play, storytelling and poetry recitation.
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Yemen’s Ḥumaynī poetry

One of the indigenous forms of Arabic poetry in Yemen is called ḥumaynī. For those who have not read the chronicle of Yaḥya b. al-Ḥusayn (d. 1100/1689) entitled Ghāyat al-amānī, it might be of interest to note that he claims the first appearance of this poetic form in the year 838/1434-5. This reference appears to be to the first collection of this poetry, since such a local form would not originally have been written. I attach the relevant pages from the edited text by Muḥammad al-Akwa‘ published in 1388/1968 in Cairo.

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Bibliography of Arabic Texts on Yemen

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There is a useful bibliography of Arabic texts related to Yemen on the website Alukah.net.  Several of these are available in pdf.

For access to a major collection of downloadable pdfs on Yemen, go here.

Here is the start of the bibliography noted above.

اخي الكريم
هذه قائمة بالمصادر الأساسية في تاريخ اليمن، القديم والمعاصر.
مصادر ومراجع تاريخ اليمن
فصل من كتاب (جامع مؤلفات أهل اليمن ، المخطوطة والمطبوعة منذ أول تأليف ختى عام 2005م، بيليوجرافيا شاملة : تأليف : عمر عوض خريص ، مخطوط

* أئمة اليمن .
محمد بن محمد بن يحيى زبارة ، ت (1380هـ) طبع بتعز سنة 1952م . وطبعته الدار اليمنية
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الأباضية بحضرموت.
عبدالقادر محمد الصبان ، مخطوط ، لدى ورثة المؤلف بسيئون .
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* أبرز الأحداث اليمنية في ربع قرن : سبتمبر 1962ـ سبتمبر1987: من ارشيف صحيفة الرأي العام .، دمشق : مطبعة الكاتب العربي 1987، 175ص 24سم .
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* الاتجاه القومي في حركة الاحرار اليمنيين .
عبدالله أحمد الذيعاني ، رسالة ماجستير ، بغداد ، (طع 256).
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* آثار ونقوش العقلة .
محمد عبدالقادر بافقيه ، مطبعة لجنة التاليف والترجمة ، القاهرة 1967.
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* اثبات ماليس مثبوت من تاريخ يافع في حضرموت .
عبدالخالق بن عبدالله بن صالح البطاطي (1324ـ 1410هـ) ،مطابع دار البلاد بجدة ، 122 ص ، والمؤلف رجل من رجال الدولة القعيطية ، تولى نيابة السلطان على مدينة الشحر ، وكان مخلصا وفيا لبلاده ، شارك في عملية التنوير والبناء ، وكتابه هذا ردا على مؤلف المؤرخ محمد عبدالقادر بامطرف (الاقطاعيون كانوا هنا ) . والذي كتبه بامطرف في ظروف حرجة .

There are many more texts listed on the site.

A Boy’s View of Mocha Coffee

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Trolling through archive.org can yield surprising and very obscure finds. Such is the case for this Orientalist book by Daniel Wise from 1885. The author has written it for boys (not sure if girls were on his mind) about a trip that a boy could make from Boston to Baghdad and back again. The author splices information from various travel accounts into his fanciful narrative, which has a missionary side as well.

What I found of interest was a brief discussion of coffee, probably taken from Niebuhr’s late 18th century travels.  There is nothing new here, but the style is fun to consider. It is interesting to note that even back then it seems that not all Mocha coffee was coming from Mocha.

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Yemeni Arts on al-Madaniya

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Despite the turmoil and suffering in Yemen, a number of Yemeni artists are continuing to write, draw, photograph and film. One of the more exciting online resources for this is the website al-madaniya, published in English and Arabic.  Current posts include an article on Muhammad Mahmud al-Zubayri, Art in prehistoric Yemen, Yemeni songs, the poets ‘Abd al-‘Aziz al-Muqalih and ‘Abd Allah al-Baradduni, several short stories and much more. All the articles are published in Arabic and English, so they are also suitable for anyone interested in learning Arabic.

As note in the “About” section…

al-Madaniya magazine is a platform for Yemeni art, culture and civil society. It aims to highlight and nurture Yemeni art, culture and civil society initiatives through contributions from emerging and established writers, photographers and creatives

The magazine aims to impact the way Yemenis view their own society by providing a space for its cultural, intellectual and artistic productions, and by highlighting initiatives bridging social divisions. By presenting all contributions in both Arabic and English language, the magazine allows the international reader to explore an undiscovered side to Yemen, which differs from images of Yemen created in mainstream media

al-Madaniya magazine is a project implemented by the Yemen Polling Center and made possible by the generous funding of the German Institute of Foreign Affairs.  Yemeni artist Ibi Ibrahim has been commissioned to lead the project and serve as the Editor in Chief.

New Bibliographic Resource for Yemen

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Much has been made of Iran’s alleged support of the Huthi regime in Yemen. Lost in the glare of the politics is a remarkable resource in Iran for anyone interested in the history of Yemen and its culture, and indeed for the whole history of Islam and the region. This is a website devoted to classical Arabic and Persian texts, including several which are relevant to Yemen. It boasts some 6,742 books and over 27,000 journal articles.

Among the texts available to read and to search online are al-Hamdānī’s Ṣifat jazīrat al-‘Arab, Nashwān ibn Sa‘īd al-Ḥimyarī’s Mulūk Ḥimyar wa-aqyāl al-Yaman, al-Burayḥī’s Ṭabaqāt ṣulaḥā’ al-Yaman, al-Janadī’s Sulūk, al-Khazrajī’s al-‘Uqūd al-lu’lu’iyya, plus many more. In addition there is an online searchable edition of al-Zabīdī’s Tāj al-‘arūs, the lexicon of lexicons.

yemensearchThe remarkable feature of this website is that you can search the entire collection or search within an individual text.  For example, if you type اليمن into the overall search function, it will give you hundreds of hits in a variety of Arabic books and journal articles, as noted above.

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If you go to a specific text, like al-Hamdānī’s geographical text, and type in a location (like ذمار), you get all the times it occurs in the text.

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AIYS Funding for Yemeni Authors

اعلان
تمويل المعهد الأميركي للدراسات اليمنية لطباعة أبحاث أكاديمية يمنية
الموعد النهائي لتقديم طلب التمويل 31يوليو2018

يعلن المعهد الأميركي للدراسات اليمنية عن منافسة لطباعة كتب بحوث أكاديمية باللغة العربية للباحثين اليمنيين في اليمن. إننا ندرك الوضع الصعب الذي يواجه الباحثين اليمنين في الوقت الراهن ونريد تقديم المساعدة لنشر بحوثهم. الباحثين اليمنين الذين لديهم مسودة كتاب أو دراسة في مجال العلوم الإنسانية, الآداب أو العلوم الاجتماعية جاهزة للطباعة والنشر ويريدون نشرها عليهم تقديم مخطوط الكتاب او الدراسة في ملف  ورود أوب يدي أف (Word or pdf) وتعبئة استمارة تقديم الطلب الموجودة أدناه. سيتم منح الأفضلية للكتب التي تركز على الموروث التاريخي والثقافي اليمني. وسيتم تقييم ومراجعة الطلبات من قبل لجنة النشر المكونة من أعضاء المعهد الأميركي للدراسات اليمنية. الموعد النهائي لتقديم الطلبات خلال هذه لدورة هو 31 يوليو.  المعهد الأميركي للدراسات اليمنية سوف يقدم تمويل الطباعة والنشر في اليمن.

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