Yemen’s Cultural Crisis: Catastrophe or Opportunity?
MESA Annual Convention, Sunday, November 23, 4:30pm
• Bridging the Generation Gap to Protect Nature in Yemen: Conservation of Nature through Culture by Mohammed Al-Duais
• Cents and (Cultural) Sensibility: How Transnational Political Agendas Condition the Content of Contemporary Theater in Yemen by Katherine Hennessey
• It Looks Good on Paper: Conserving Zabid’s Manuscripts and Intellectual History by Anne Regourd
• Conserving Built Heritage and Landscapes in Yemen: Political and Cultural Considerations for Sustainability by Stephen Steinbeiser and Abdullah Al-Hadhrami
• Chair: Dr. Sheila Carapico
This panel investigates how sociopolitical turmoil in Yemen from 2011 to the present has impacted the production, development, and preservation of culture in domains ranging from the arts to architecture to archeology. Dire political and economic circumstances, as well as other impending emergencies, have largely thrown into crisis efforts to create and maintain Yemen’s cultural heritage. International and diplomatic efforts to stabilize the political situation in Yemen have resulted in pledges of billions of dollars, presumably to shore up a failing economy, combat terrorism and ensure security. Although these are undeniably crucial goals, this panel argues that a brighter future for the country depends more on a holistic awareness and approach to addressing the country’s problems, one which broadens the focus to promote education, the arts, and preservation of Yemen’s immense, but often undocumented and deteriorating, cultural patrimony.
Scholars on this panel will analyze the contemporary challenges to cultural preservation and production in Yemen, and the urgent threats such challenges pose. When possible, panelists will also provide examples of recent successful efforts to protect and support various aspects of Yemeni culture, as well as contemporary cultural production spurred by the Arab Spring, and to suggest ways in which individuals, organizations, and the international community could potentially capitalize on those efforts. The panelists’ areas of expertise will cover a variety of sub-domains under the general heading of cultural production, including but not limited to architecture and restoration; museums and cultural policy; manuscript conservation; environmental awareness; and literature, film, and theater.
Ashrafiyya Mosque, Taizz
One of the most important sources, if not the most important, on the history of the madrasa in Yemen was written by Qadi Ismail al-Akwa‘. An article based mainly on what Qadi Ismail collected is available online in Arabic. Another study by Dr. ‘Abd Allah ‘Abd al-Sallām al-Haddad is available here.
The Yemeni scholar Qadi Ismail al-Akwa‘ has a Facebook page in Arabic dedicated to his life and work.
Facebook has a webpage for the al-Kaff family of the Hadramawt. One of the major historical libraries in Yemen is the al-Aḥqāf Library in Tarīm. An index to this library is now available, as noted on the al-Kaff website. I have not yet found an online index, although there is a listing of Arabic language and grammar texts there.
There was a time when books were hard to come by. Either they cost too much or were inaccessible in a private or exclusive university library. Whatever else the world wide web has done (and that is a mouthful), it now functions as an archive. More and more, the rare and out-of-print books I used to be forced to read in a library reading room are becoming available online. Mr. Gutenberg might roll over in his Grab at the very thought of a pdf file, but print has taken a new and universal turn. I especially enjoy the “flipbook”, which simulates turning the pages of images of the original. For an enjoyable read on the early history of Yemen, there is the flipbook version of Henry Cassels Kay’s translation called YAMAN, ITS EARLY MEDIAEVAL HISTORY, published in London in 1892. This has excerpts (not always trustworthy in their translation) from Umarah ibn Ali al-Hakami (1120/21-1174), Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406), and Muhammad ibn Yaqub al-Janadi (d. 1332?).
The sad thing is that well over a century ago, Kay lamented that there was virtually nothing available on the history of Yemen, which had become of strategic interest to the British empire. More sadly, the same can be said today. There is no single, critical history of Yemen’s Islamic history in English or another European language, while there are many valuable historical texts written by Yemenis in Arabic. Here is Kay’s comment:
Continue reading Flipping through Yemen a Millennium Ago
المدرسة المعتبية في تعز
This word just in. An AIYS panel proposed for the 2014 MESA annual meeting in Washington, D.C. has been accepted. The panel was organized by AIYS President Varisco and the abstract of the panel is provided below:
Making Yemen’s Islamic History: Engineering, Endowments, Monuments and Qat
Scholarship on Islamic history has paid less attention to Yemen than to Iraq, Syria or Egypt. Despite an important corpus of manuscripts and the publication of several significant primary sources, the historical reconstruction of Islamic Yemen lags behind these other regions. This panel brings together historians who work on various periods in Yemen to illustrate how the current historiography is being made. Archaeological fieldwork on the Islamic era has been limited with the notable exception of the Royal Ontario Museum project on Zabid. Based on the excavation of water works in Zabid, one paper compares the material evidence with the description of water engineering schemes in the 16th century Yemeni text History of Zabid by Ibn al-Dayba’, thus showing the importance of archaeology for fleshing out the tantalizing details in written texts. Another paper focuses on the 10th century multi-volume al-Iklil of the Yemeni savant al-Hamdani, who provides a rhetorical landscape of monuments as an aid in the formation and maintenance of the South Arabian political identity in a fashion akin to modern cultural heritage texts. At the same time, al-Hamdani’s reconstruction of Yemen’s pre-Islamic past serves as a mirror of the politics of his own time, with the retreat of the Abbasid presence and the recent arrival of both Zaydis and Isma’ilis to northern Yemen, more than a century before the Ayyubid invasion. The Zaydi presence in Yemen’s north since the late ninth century is the focus of a paper on the tax policies of the Zaydi imams, especially the tension between the traditional zakat on production and other kinds of taxes. This paper discusses both the theological debate about tax collection and recorded information on how taxes were actually collected. Another paper examines the evidence for the introduction of both coffee (Coffea arabica) and qat (Catha edulis) into Yemen, probably during the Rasulid era. Recent research has resolved the issue of the origin of the term “qat” and there is a need to update discussion of the stimulant in previous sources, including the EI. This paper will examine historical, literary, legal and lexical sources as well as Yemeni folklore. Overall the panel provides both an indication of current research and an invitation for other scholars to help make Yemen’s history as well.
Continue reading AIYS at MESA
[More than 10,000 Yemeni manuscripts have disappeared over the last 10 years, many of them destroyed by extremists opposed to Zaydi-Shiism and its intellectual heritage.]
يعتبر اليمن موطنا للمخطوطات والرقائق القرآنية بامتياز، حيث إن التاريخ والموروث الحضاري العربي الإسلامي بكل تجلياته ، وجد بيئة حاضنة لم تكشف لحد اليوم عن كامل أسرارها وكنوزها النادرة التي لا تنضب .
ورغم تعرض المخطوط اليمني لعملية نهب منظمة إبان الاستعمار البريطاني ، قدرت بأزيد من 60 ألف مخطوطة على الأقل ، إلا أن الوثائق اليمنية غير المكتشفة أكبر بكثير مما سلط عليه الضوء .
وتتوزع المخطوطات اليمنية في العالم بين مختلف المكتبات والمراكز المختصة بشكل رسمي ، فنجد أن مكتبة “الأميروزيانا” التي تأسست عام 1609 في مدينة ميلانو ، تزخر لوحدها بأكثر من 1700 مخطوط يمني في مختلف مجالات العلم والمعرفة ، بالإضافة إلى آلاف الوثائق اليمنية التي تنتشر على مكتبات قارات العالم بأكمله .
ومن المكتبات العالمية التي تحتضن في أروقتها مخطوطات يمنية ، نذكر: مكتبة الفاتيكان في إيطاليا ، مكتبة الإسكوريال في إسبانيا ، المكتبة الوطنية في باريس ، مكتبة الكونغرس في واشنطن ، مكتبة برلين ، المكتبة السليمانية في تركيا ، إلى جانب مكتبات في الهند وباكستان وبريطانيا وإيرلندا. Continue reading Yemeni Manuscripts in Peril