A translated version of this piece is Available in: العربية (Arabic)
Yemen’s first online magazine on art, culture and civil society: a manifestation of a particular kind of hope.
Just six years ago, during the 2011 protests, a plethora of groups and individuals – journalists, filmmakers, intellectuals and women’s rights activists – publicly expressed their hopes and dreams for Yemen’s future. Not only were politics renegotiated in the protest squares around the country, but social norms were challenged and discussed. It was during this time that people from all walks of life came together around the ideas of a ‘civil state’ and celebrated the potential of a ‘new Yemen’.
However, bargaining among the elites, along with regional and international influence, has led to increased violence throughout the country. The violence is tearing at the very fabric of Yemeni society: families, neighborhoods and cities are divided along political, regional, sectarian and social lines. Most media coverage of Yemen focuses on these violent conflicts, thus exacerbating these divisions. Independent media is a rarity in Yemen, with many media outlets politicized. Journalists have been kidnapped or killed, and numerous media outlets have been shut down. Many intellectuals and journalists are no longer heard in the public sphere.
But beneath the elite bargaining and violent conflict, young activists, artists, entrepreneurs, filmmakers, musicians, photographers and writers continue to challenge authorities in their everyday lives by claiming, defending and expanding spaces where they can express themselves. Finding ways around the repression and violent conflict, these young people continue to speak out in creative ways and build bridges within Yemeni society.
Al-Madaniya is for these artists, intellectuals and writers. It is a space where the hopes and dreams, stories and traumas, questions and visions of Yemen’s past and future are presented and discussed. Al-Madaniya puts the reconciliatory initiatives of Yemeni people – young and old – at the forefront. Our goal is to document the resilience of the people of Yemen: through their writings, their art, their poems and their voices. In times of instability and in times of war, their voices continue to speak against injustice. Commonalities of the Yemeni people, rather than differences, are the focus. This media platform intends to give a voice to those marginalized by violent fighting. It is a space for civic-minded Yemenis who dreamed of building a civil state in Yemen and whose hopes were disappointed by the current conflict. It is to remind Yemenis of their hopes and dreams for a better future together; to show them the continuous activities of Yemeni civil society in the face of violent conflict; and to build bridges between social and political groups, as they have drifted further apart during these last two years.
Throughout the preparation of al-Madaniya’s launch, we felt the hope that remains within Yemen. We met young and emerging writers who are full of enthusiasm and ideas they would like to carry into the public sphere. Established writers found with us a platform where their critical and progressive ideas are welcomed. Women and men, from different parts of the country, including Aden, Taiz and Sana’a, came together to share their thoughts and dreams with us on al-Madaniya. Our writers want to push controversial debates and present the activities of their creative and intellectual kin to a national and international audience. Through illustrations and photography, we hope to involve your visual senses, to bring not only the debates but also the artistic emotions driving the discussions.
We’ve been fortunate to have such a diverse launch. We hope to continue to attract Yemeni creatives to take part in building al-Madaniya as the primary platform for Yemeni art and culture.