A translated version of this piece is Available in: العربية (Arabic)
“Seeing what is invisible to others is my vision in art. Capturing the darkness of mystery, dealing with forces beyond normal vision, revealing the unseen, and transforming the world into visions – these are my ways of storytelling.” – Sharaf al-Hothi
Sharaf al-Hothi is a Yemeni photographer who was born and raised in Tokyo, Japan. He embraced and was enriched by the mix of both cultures. However, during his childhood, he struggled to communicate with his peers, both in Yemen and Japan, and also struggled with his academic performance. These struggles eventually led him to seek refuge in art. “Through his artistic abilities he pronounced himself by drawing abstract pieces. I stored all his pieces for the day he makes a name for himself”, says his mother. His background, combined with his emotions and life events, became a source of inspiration for his visual art journey.
His journey, which started with experimenting with different forms of abstract drawings and photography, helped him find and develop his own photography style, where he finally felt he could represent his true character and speak his mind. Sharaf found in pareidolia what he was looking for. Pareidolia is the “the tendency to perceive a specific, often meaningful image in a random or ambiguous visual pattern”. Pareidolia, combined with creative photography skills acquired through the years, allowed him to express his feelings and thoughts in a way that wasn’t possible before. It allowed for a way to visually present how he sees the world and how he thinks the world sees him.
Patterns, shapes, lines, faces and even demons that he used to see, when life wasn’t treating him well, all became relevant – crucial elements in conveying hidden messages through his visual artworks. When observing his artwork, one can’t help but feel the mystery between those elements; but unlike other abstract works, they contain a soul that you almost see staring at you. Sharaf was able to exhibit his work for the first time at Kuala Lumpur Photography Festival in 2016, followed by a series of exhibitions in Malaysia.
For this artistic photo essay, Sharaf wanted to create a project where he could go back in time and dive between the two cultures that shaped him and the two worlds that defined his identity. “I inherited the Japanese culture through my mind, but my Yemeni blood will always flow inside my heart, and both cultures combine in me as one true spirit”, Sharaf said. This visual demonstration shows what that meant to him through his own creative style.
For Sharaf, the rising sun in his work represents Japan, while the flow of what he named the ‘silk road’ represents Yemen. As for the hidden mysterious message that Sharaf always tries to include through his different projects, he says: “The message that I want to deliver behind all of my artworks is Nothingness… To me, photography is an art of observation, it’s about finding the meaning in an ordinary place.”
“The rising sun pearls through my mind and the silk road flows inside my heart, embodying my spirit as one.”
– Sharaf al-Hothi
Sharaf al-Hothi is a Yemeni visual artist photographer based in Kuala Lumpur. He was born in 1989 in Tokyo, Japan, and lived in Tokyo for 13 years. Subsequently, he studied for a Bachelor of Art and Design at Universiti Teknologi MARA Malaysia for four years. In his work, Sharaf often aims to discover new methods and concepts aided by his persistent curiosity to discover creative ideas. He exhibited his first work in a group exhibition at Kuala Lumpur Photography Festival in (2016-18), and at the Lostgens’ Contemporary Art Space, University Malaya Art Gallery, in 2018. His first solo exhibition took place at PORT commune Creative Event Space in 2017. He has been featured in Arabi Magazine, local digital photography magazine Fotografika, Special Weekly Magazine, 1340Art | International Art Magazine, and in Artroom 22 online magazine.