Mizrachi

“Sapari (Tema Temima)”

Sapari_refined

Later Draft: This is sloppier because I was using rusty old calligraphy nibs and dipping them in a variety of coloured inks (I tried, but failed, to do gradient swatches). The nibs caused abrasion on the surface of my sheet, so the inking was not applied evenly in certain areas! I used high-end inks and gold leaf, but the quality of my work isn’t quite better than my earlier draft with cheaper utensils (see below).

See the complete version (+ audio) of Sa’adiah ben Amram’s poem in the Piyyut database.

Long ago, I remember trying to get in touch with Yemenite musical heritage, during which an acquaintance mentioned Sa’adia ben Amram to me. Information was sparse on this 17th century poet from the highlands of northern Yemen (normally, I’d use Jstor for this type of search, but my student access expired…sorry, Google). It didn’t take much longer until I discovered that Orphaned Land, an Israeli progressive metal band that I hadn’t heard from since 2008, made a cover of one of Amram’s renown poems, “Sapari”. Amazing! The hybrid melodies between traditional Yemeni folk vocals intertwining with elements of metal was masterfully achieved (to my ears, at least)—I listened to the track several more times, and still didn’t know how to react!

I was captivated enough to find myself comparing the lyrics and the actual poem side-by-side, with the (limited) Hebrew I understood, whilst picking up new vocabulary in the process. To my excitement, I discovered that “Sapari” is often performed by many other Israeli musicians (whom weren’t all Mizrachi) in a variety of genres. The diversity and depth I find in many other Israeli songs, whether folk, reggae, or pop, Mizrahi, Ashkenazi, or Sefardi, makes it so much more intriguing to me than…than the bland khaliji pop music I was constantly exposed to in Dubai, where every khaliji hit seemed like an uninspired mimicry of the previous khaliji hit (but hey, you are free to enjoy Khaliji music if it’s your cup of shai!).

I am a 100% halal-certified beef frank; don’t let the opinion of one Yemeni girl offend you.

Sapari_sketch

Early Doodle: I did this on a train in a few minutes, using 1 simple calligraphy pen and gold Sharpie. Notice how much more refined the edges are (compared to above) and the even application of ink. In spite of the turbulence, I was more confident (perhaps because subconsciously, I knew it was just a draft). Just goes to show you, confidence and simplicity can sometimes make-up for lack of good-quality materials, even on a commute 😉

סַפְּרִי תַמָּה תְמִימָה
סַפְּרִי נָגִיל בְּתֵימָא
בַּת מְלָכִים הַחֲכָמָה
אָן מְקוֹמֵךְ סַפְּרִי לִי
עָנְתָה יוֹנָה סְעַדְיָה
לִי בְּפַלְטֵרִין עֲלִיָּה
וַאֲנִי תּוֹךְ לֵב אֳנִיָּה
בַּיְּפִי עוֹטָה מְעִילִי

Tell me, O innocent oneTell me, we will rejoice in innocence! Daughter of wise kings, where is your hiding place? Tell me. My dove answered: Sa’adya, I went up to the palaces. And I, though secretly I am poor, still I am robed in beauty.

If you are reading this post and can point me to credible references or exhibits regarding Sa’adia ben Amram or other Yemenite/Yemeni/Yemen-ish artists (contemporary or historic), please share! 😀 Preferably in English (or Arabic) since my Hebrew is weak. hehe.

Yemen.

Sanaa_Skyline_final1

I illustrated this 3-piece poster in the first week of April 2015, mainly to promote the diversity of Yemen. When the 3 pieces are combined, it creates the full 6″ by 15″ scene.

Sanaa_Skyline_final2
At that point in time, Yemen had faced two weeks of non-stop bombing and airstrikes from saudi arabia. It is now early September, and the bombing continues.

Sanaa_Skyline_final3

Here is my original caption:
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In recent weeks, Yemen has been in a state of anarchy, following decades of political instability and poverty since the 1962 revolution. For over 2 weeks now, Saudi Arabia has been launching deadly airstrikes over Yemen, killing over 100 civilians. The death toll of civilians and “rebels” will continue to rise until the saudi invasion ends…until saudi decides to give a damn about justice and Human rights.

#KefayaWar (“enough” war) is trending on social media by those protesting the violence of foreign intervention. It demonstrates the devastation faced by Yemenites who have lost their homes or family members by drones in the past several years, or in more recent airstrikes, whilst simultaneously sharing the beauty of this fertile mountain city (Sana’a), and the strength and resilience of the Yemeni civilians.

This piece venerates the diversity of Yemen, dating back to the Jewish presence that prevailed back in the Himyarite era. It is a nostalgic scene, but flickers hope for a brighter future in Yemen.
_________

7 months later, the bombing has intensified and will continue.
:’/
_________
EDIT (28/09/2015)
In the last scene, you will notice I included some, erm, calligraffiti on the building. From top to bottom, it reads shlama in the Eastern Syriac (Madankhaya) script, shalom in Modern Hebrew script, and salam in Arabic script. Given Sana’a’s geographic location and influences, it would’ve made MUCH more sense to include Sabaean script, or even Amharic or G’eez script, rather than East Syriac. Or maybe I could’ve used West Syriac, or even Nabatean, rather than East Syriac. Although, I am not yet familiar enough with Sabaean or Amharic, I will have to revise this last piece and upload again!