Symbols on the wall (4) - mural in old Al Mukalla

Marjolein Katsma

Amsterdam, Netherlands

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Artist's Description

Share this page photo: © 2007 Marjolein Katsma | text: © 2010 Marjolein Katsma


Tags for this photograph:
travel, women, politics, symbol, icon, income, independence, yemen, elections, handicrafts, mukalla, al mukalla


This image is part of Symbols on the wall – a “documentary” on the walls of Yemen and things attached to walls. Please read the Introduction first!

< previous Symbols on the wall (3) - falling evening in old Al Mukalla   ^ Accidental posters   Symbols on the wall (5) - posters in Ibb next >


Walking on in the old city of Al Mukalla I come past a wall with a series of rather striking murals on it. Each has a different scene depicting people going about their daily occupations. This one, the only one with women struck me in particular, so I took a picture of it hoping I could “straighten” it to make it rectangular again – and I did…

Why is this image in this series? For two reasons.

The first reason is what I happened to find (but did not really register at the time) in the original shot:

mural of women at work

Look: there’s a whole row of posters above it!

above the mural in Al Mukalla (1) above the mural in Al Mukalla (2)

The poster on the right is rather blurry, but the one on the left is quite clear and the face of the candidate is quite recognizable: as it happens (I’ve only just found this out) this is Faisal Bin Shamlan, who was born in the Hadramawt province and was the main opposition candidate for the presidential elections ni September 2006. (More about this in the last chapter.)

But there’s another reason this image appears in this series, and that’s the mural itself. After taking this photo, I went right into the center of the old town, into the ordinary streets where people live, the streets avoided by most tourists who just walk around the old city along the sea coast. There, I met a group of delightful teenage girls, just coming home from school: they were eager to chat and practice their English – it wasn’t much, but it was fun. I grabbed my camera, intending to show them the pictures I had taken so far, and they immediately became skittish: they definitely didn’t want to be photographed. But they loved looking at my pictures. but this one got quite an enthousiastic reaction. This mural obviously meant something to them, although their English was not up to the task of explaining it.

The thing is, it’s meaningful. Although I don’t know what it means to them, I do know what it means to me: it depicts one of the few ways in which Yemeni women can gain some independence: by producing handicrafts and selling them for a little income of their own.

Not a poster, not even political, but certainly a symbol on a wall…

We’re now ready for phase two in our magical mystery tour along Yemen’s walls, where posters no longer feature accidentally, and we’ll find even more Things on walls.


Taken in Al Mukalla, Yemen 2007
Camera: Fuji Finepix F30

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Mounted print, black border

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I also made two card versions of this image, one in full color and one almost sepia toned:

Symbols on the wall (4) - mural in old Al Mukalla (card 1)

Symbols on the wall (4) - mural in old Al Mukalla (card 2)


Artwork Comments

  • Hélène David-Cuny
  • Marjolein Katsma
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