Symbols on the wall - Things on walls

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Collecting symbols Symbols on the wall – Collecting symbols
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In Ibb everything changed.

(In Kyrgyzstan last year, I was trying to avoid getting the powerlines in my landscape shots – until I realized they were not only part of the landscape, they were actually important: hydropower is one of the few export products Kyrgyzstan has. Then I shifted to taking photos of powerlines and pylons in the landscape. Something similar happened with political posters in Yemen, and it happened in Ibb.)

Until we arrived there, any (political) posters I’d noticed were just part of the landscape, so to speak (and sometimes getting in the way). A few chance finds in Ibb changed all that. First, there was the “poster wall” :

Symbols on the wall (5) - posters in Ibb

I found the colorful arrangement of (clearly political) posters in this portico wall so striking, that I took a photo of the posters – it was not a photo of a wall, this was a photo of posters on a wall. Still, I noticed mostly the colorfulness of the scene, not the details – that came later. Most walls in the old town of Ibb were whitewashed – and I started to notice this also served as an ideal surface for graffiti, which in many cases was promptly painted over again, and apparently painting over them was more important than matching the white paint:

Symbols on the wall (8) - painted wall in Ibb

I began to wonder whether much of the graffiti I saw wasn’t political in nature, too, and whether part of the political struggle wasn’t actually taking place right on the walls! And there was more (walk through the photos of this chapter, and you’ll see). In Ibb, none of my photos of posters – or graffiti for that matter – were accidental any longer: these were no longer “part of the landscape”, they’d become subjects.

In Ta’izz, another shift took place. If I saw any colorful posters, I didn’t photograph them – I now saw a whole wall full of graffiti and painted over posters (confirming the idea in my mind that painting over was one way to make a political statement). And here I finally started to notice the symbols – not on posters, as I’d seen but only half-noticed them in Ibb, but painted directly on walls and objects:

Symbols on the wall (11) - street corner in Taizz

Once I noticed those, I started to look out for more…

© 2010 Marjolein Katsma – photos © 2007 Marjolein Katsma

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Please read the Introduction first!

Below is the table of contents of the photos in this chapter Things on walls:

Symbols on the wall (5) - posters in Ibb   Symbols on the wall (6) - gateway in Ibb   Symbols on the wall (7) - street corner in Ibb   Symbols on the wall (8) - painted wall in Ibb   Symbols on the wall (9) - fruit and veg shop in Ibb   Symbols on the wall (10) - graffiti wall in Taizz   Symbols on the wall (11) - street corner in Taizz   Symbols on the wall (12) - a wall in Zabid


icons, travel, women, politics, symbols, walls, democracy, yemen, elections, iconography, literacy, illiteracy

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I have two passions: travel and photography – and these are often combined. Though even in my own city I often have a camera with me!

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  • ellc
    ellcover 4 years ago

    I LOL-ed at the part about the 2nd picture! (wall not painted with matching colour)

  • Thanks, Ellen – I saw that in several places in Ibb, actually, as if someone had just one pot of paint ;)

    – Marjolein Katsma

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