Category Archives: Literature

New Book on Yemeni Novels

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For details on this new book on Yemeni novels, click here.

“This book is an analytical study of identities in eight contemporary Yemeni novels. These novels share several commonalities: They have been written within the timeframe of the eventual decade, 2008–2017; they make the country’s past the background of their narrative; and they concentrate on collective identities in Yemen. The selection of the eight novels from the bulk of the novels produced in Yemen during this specific period is based on the premise that these novels offer more material for studying the construction of identities in Yemen than others. More specifically, each of the eight chosen novels is built around several themes or motifs depicting human experiences and attitudes that have to do with widely debated identity issues in Yemen. These issues revolve around three main categories or frames of identification: regionalism, religious affiliations, and race. Although the study focuses mainly on eight novels, throughout its analytical argument it also makes frequent references to other Yemeni novels as necessary and relevant.
Novels in Yemen have become a rich and effective literary medium used by local intellectuals to bring across their humanist message. Their narratives aim at motivating their Yemeni readers to think about an alternative model of living and an alternative model of society other than the current dominant belief system in a land torn apart by war, instability and increasing internal divisions and hatred: The alternative is a way of a life shaped by love, respect, recognition, rationality, openness, environmental awareness and orientation towards peace.”

Zāmil lives in War-torn Yemen

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Photographic Source: اليمن الجمهوري

by Emily Sumner
Graduate Student in Arabic Literature, Culture & Media
Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies
College of Liberal Arts
University of Minnesota

In the celebrated Yemeni novel الرهينة (The Hostage) by Zayd Mutee‘ Dammaj, the protagonist, a hostage of the imam, is greeted by the soldiers living in the governor’s palace with verses of a zāmil:

يا دويدار قد أمك فاقدة لك.

دمعها كالمطر

Oh Duwaydar, your mother misses you

Her tears are like rain[1]

The inclusion of zawāmil in a Yemeni novel is indicative of their place in Yemeni life. Zawāmil accompany Yemen’s poignant historical moments, such as the fall of the imamate and establishment of the Republic. They are a lively component of Yemen’s cultural heritage, shedding light on its people’s social, political and literary history.

The footnote to the above zāmil in The Hostage defines it as a “traditional communal chant,”  نشيد جماعي تقليدي. A reductionist definition, yet it does get at the heart of what scholars have consistently said about this poetic genre: it expresses communal feeling and is performed by a group in response to a social occasion. In the case of The Hostage, the arrival of the Duwaydar prompts the zāmil; other moments that may inspire Yemenis to perform zawāmil are as divergent as the joy of weddings and the trials of war.

In his book Folk Literature Arts in Yemen (1988), ‘Abd Allāh al-Baraddūnī suggests that the zawāmil were dwindling at that time for a variety of reasons, chief among them the advent of modern weapons, which he claims stifle the zāmil’s pervasive sounds and rhythm. He contrasts the days when lines of men marched to battle while chanting a zāmil, their voices echoing in the air and overtaking their surroundings, with soldiers’ voices contained within moving cars. He concludes by asserting the zāmil is being reduced to “merely moral incitement, or the extension of a declining practice.”[2]

Yet the proliferation of zawāmil during the current war indicates their continued salience in Yemeni life and the ways in which Yemenis adapt cultural forms to suit novel circumstances. Al-Baradduni is not wrong—the zāmil is “moral incitement,” but perhaps the term “merely” is misplaced. The various sides of the current armed conflict, whether Houthis, pro-government forces, or supporters of the Coalition, compose zawāmil that are available not only to Yemenis but to a much wider audience on social media. The zāmil reverberates within Yemen and beyond its borders.

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By way of example, below is one popular Houthi zāmil retrieved from YouTube, along with my translation:

أداء: عيسى الليث

كلمات: محمد الجرف

وقت النقا حان ويل المعتدي ويله 1.     إستنفري ياجيوش الله في مأرب
والجن والإنس والأملاك تصغي له 2.     جنود ربي حماة الدار تتأهب
وبندقي في الخصم يدي مواويله 3.     الله أكبر صداها في الحشا يلهب
يابندقي لاهنت سامرني الليله 4.     صنعاء بعيده قولوا له الرياض أقرب
كلاً حزم عدته واسرج على خيله 5.     القوم شبت نكفها للقاء ترغب
حتى ولو في بطون الأرض نأتي له 6.     قولوا لسلمان ماله مننا مهرب
المعتدي يالغبي يبشر بتنكيله[3] 7.     هذا اليمن من تجاهلنا فقد جرب

 

Vocals: ‘Isa al-Laith

Words: Mohamad al-Jaraf

  1. Get ready for war, armies of Allah in Ma’rib!

The time for honesty has come. Woe to the aggressor, woe to him!

  1. My Lord’s soldiers, the protectors of the land, are getting ready.

The jinn, humans and angels all heed Him.

  1. “Allah is great!” Its echo blazes inside [of them].

My rifle in the conflict performs its songs.

  1. Sanʿaʾ is far away, tell him Riyadh is closer!

Oh my rifle  – may God protect you from humiliation – keep me     company tonight.

  1. The people’s disdain blazes and they crave an encounter.

Everyone has fastened their weapon and saddled their horse.

  1. Tell Salman he will never escape us!

Even in the bowels of the Earth we will get to him.

  1. This is Yemen! Whoever ignored us has learned his lesson!

The aggressor – that idiot – heralds his own destruction!

————————————————————————————-

[1] p. 18, translation my own.

[2] p. 147.

[3] Al-Laith, ʿĪsā, “Zāmil Ṣanʿāʾ baīdah qūlū lahu ar-Riyāḍ aqrab.” YouTube video, 5:36, posted by

Shamūkh Yamānī, December 31, 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3tRFJdzQwZw. Accessed February 23, 2020.

الإعلان عن إطلاق موقع يمن ابديت اون لين

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الإعلان عن إطلاق موقع  يمن ابديت اون لين

ينشر موقع يمن ابديت اون لاين البحوث والدراسات اليمنية بما في ذلك المقالات المهنية بلغتين العربية والانجليزي و مراجعات الكتب والتقارير التي يصدرها باحثو وزملاء المعهد الأمريكي للدراسات اليمنية. تتم الإضافات والتحديثات على مدار العام بعد تقديمها والموافقة على نشرها من قبل المحررين. وان كانت المقالات اقل من الف كلمة فسيتم نشرها كنص في الإنترنت. بينما يتم نشر المقالات والموضوعات الأطول بصيغة بي. دي. أف لأمكانية نسخها من الموقع. ويتخذ المحررون قرار الموافقة على نشرها. ان رغبتم في تقديم صور او رسومات يجب ان تكونوا اصحاب الحق في نشرها اولديكم اذناً بذل. أما بقية حقوق الطبع فهي للكاتب. التفاصيل على الموقع

Announcing Yemen Update Online

Yemen Update Online publishes research in English and Arabic in any field of Yemen Studies. This includes professional articles of any length, book reviews and AIYS fellowship reports. Items will be added throughout the calendar year as they are submitted and approved by the editors. If the article is less than 1,000 words it will be published as text online, but longer articles will be published as pdfs to be downloaded from the site. Decisions on publication are made by the editors. If you are submitting photographs or drawings, make sure that you have permission to do so.  All rights remain with the author. For details, check out the website.

More Yemeni Manuscripts Online

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Title page of a collective manuscript containing several writings by the founder of the Zaydi state in Yemen, Imam al-Hadi ila l-haqq (d. 910). The codex (copied around 1200 CE) is one of the oldest among the Yemeni manuscripts of the Munich Caprotti collection.

The Institute for Advanced Study, the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library (HMML), and the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Munich, announce that digital copies of 53 additional South Arabian manuscripts are now available online through vHMML (Virtual HMML) Reading Room and the digital repository of the Bavarian State Library. Convenient access is further provided through the Digital Portal of the Zaydi Manuscript Tradition website at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, New Jersey. The digitization has been generously funded by the National Endowment of the Humanities.

The South Arabian manuscripts held by the Bavarian State Library were brought together by the Italian merchant Giuseppe Caprotti, who arrived in Yemen in 1885 and spent the next 34 years there. During his sojourn in South Arabia, Caprotti collected 1,790 manuscripts. A small portion, 157 manuscripts, was offered in 1901 through the mediation of Eduard Glaser to the Bibliotheca Regia Monacensis at Munich (now Bavarian State Library), and the purchase was concluded in 1902. The bulk of the Caprotti collection belongs, since 1909, to the Biblioteca Pinacoteca Accademia Ambrosiana, in Milan, and another portion of 280 manuscripts was donated in 1922 to the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana.

“With close to 1,800 codices, the Caprotti collection is the largest collection of South Arabian manuscripts outside Yemen, and it is very helpful that some more of this precious material is now available to scholars worldwide in digital form,” said Sabine Schmidtke, Professor of Islamic intellectual history in the School of Historical Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study.

Read the rest of the article…

R. B. Serjeant’s Work on Yemen

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Last year a memorial issue on the 25th anniversary of the passing of the major scholar of Yemen, R. B. Serjeant, was published. Serjeant, who held the Adams Chair of Arabic at Cambridge, had personal experience in Yemen and made a variety of contributions to Yemeni Studies.

A copy of this issue is available here:

Chroniques du manuscrit au Yémen

Numéro spécial 2, 2018

Robert Bertram Serjeant (1915-1933).
Écosse-Yémen

Edité par Anne Regourd

Table des matières

Le volume complet (format pdf)

Anne Regourd (CNRS, UMR 7192). Vingt-cinq ans après : Hommage à Robert Bertram Serjeant (1915-1993). L’homme et ses archives

Aline Brodin (Cataloguing archivist, Special Collections, University of Edinburgh). An overview of the Robert Bertram Serjeant Collections at the University of Edinburgh Main Library

Ronald Lewcock (UNESCO consultant on architecture in the Yemen). Three Medieval Mosques in the Yemen: architecture, art, and sources
Plates and photographs

Philippe Provençal (Natural History Museum of Denmark). La question des noms d’espèces de poissons en arabe : la liste de Robert Bertram Serjeant

Mikhail Rodionov (Peter-the-Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography, St. Petersburg State University, Russia). Ibāḍīs in the written-oral tradition of modern Ḥaḍramawt

G. Rex Smith (University of Leeds). Two literary mixed Arabic texts from the Yemen

Yemeni manuscript resource

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A website called The International Treasury of Islamic Manuscripts contains basic information on almost 250 Yemeni manuscripts, most in the Glaser collection in Vienna and Berlin. You can search these by clicking here. Several of the manuscripts listed are digitized and available to view online. An example is: النفحة الندية فى توالى ايام الاشهر العربية والرومية والفارسية .  This is described as follows:

“The author Muḥammad b. Aḥmad Ibn al-Imām gives instructions on how the following tables (ff.40v-94r) for the years 1215/1800 to 1241/1825 are to be used. Every year is dealt with on four pages, and on each page the Arabic, Greek, and Persian months and their days are juxtaposed. Then the four seasons, beginning with autumn, are listed in ff.94v–96r with their appropriate lunar mansions; ff.97r-100 provide tables on the length of day and night; 101v-131r, with every page divided into three columns, indicate the first day of each month for the years 1242/1826 to 1300/1883. Corrections of احمد بن يحيى المفتى الحبيشى, as necessitated by the leap years in calculating the beginning of the new year, from the year 1266/1849 to 1300/1883.”

Zaydi Manuscript Tradition

The Zaydi Manuscript Tradition project, based at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton,  has issued a recent report on the ZMT’s ongoing efforts to capture the Yemeni manuscripts in Italian libraries and provide open access to them.

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V. Sagaria Rossi & S. Schmidtke, “The Zaydi Manuscript Tradition (ZMT) Project. Digitizing the Collections of Yemeni Manuscripts in Italian Libraries,” Comparative Oriental Manuscript Studies (COMSt) Bulletin 5/1 (2019), pp. 43-60.

An online version of the paper is available at https://www.aai.uni-hamburg.de/en/comst/pdf/bulletin5-1/43-60.pdf as well as
https://albert.ias.edu/handle/20.500.12111/7824.

Dictionary on Tribal Customary law in Yemen

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Culminating its support for Yemen’s cultural heritage, AIYS has recently printed and published Qāmūs al-‘urf al-qabīlī fī al-Yaman (Dictionary of Tribal Customary Law in Yemen) in three volumes. This is a remarkable work aimed to fill a gap in the Yemeni literature. The author is Ahmed al-Gabali, a senior researcher at the Yemeni Center for Studies and Research.

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Ahmad Gabali with Dr. Salwa Dammaj in the AIYS office

This dictionary is the first of its kind in the Yemeni literature. It is designed to gather, document and explain terms and idioms regarding tribal norms and rules in different regions of Yemen from north to south and from east to west. The author conducted a nationwide field survey in the most famous tribal regions in Yemen. Study of the available literature provided a key resource for the content. This was based on original tribal documents, works by Yemeni authors, as well as studies by foreign researchers. In addition, geographical and historical literature was consulted as a reference to support the work. Local folk poetry in several Yemeni regions also proved valuable help for explaining the terms and concepts. Generally speaking, the content of the dictionary is based on reliable and credible sources and authentic references. It will serve as a main reference for researchers in the future.

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The author Aḥmad Ṣāliḥ al-Gabalī has been a sociology and anthropology researcher at the Yemen Center forStudies and Research since 2004. He received an M.A. degree in Bulgaria in 1988. His previous publications include studies of the terms hajar and jawār in ancient Yemen as well as the Contract of Medina written during the lifetime of the Prophet. He began research for this book on Yemeni tribes in 2006.

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