Group image of all of the participents in the forum along with Anna Paolini, UNESCO Representative in the Arab States of the Gulf and Yemen, Amir Berbic, Dean of of Virginia Commonwealth University - School of Arts in Qatar, and the culture team at the UNESCO GCC and Yemen field office.
Since 2015, the conflict in Yemen has severely impacted the livelihoods of the population as well as the dynamism of cultural life for youth and the ability to practice art publicly. Young artists face several challenges from high security risks and a lack of access to employment, funds, and channels of outreach. “We are more than cholera!,” declared filmmaker Mariam Al-Dhubhani, one of the 26 young Yemeni artists and cultural programmers who joined the UNESCO Yemeni Youth Cultural Diaspora Forum, held last Wednesday in Doha. “Yemen should be viewed as a borderless cultural global space’ mentioned Shaima Al Tamimi, a Yemeni-Kenyan visual storyteller. “It is important to own your narrative to overcome the disconnect between Yemeni diaspora and Yemenis back home’, she added.
We need to stop only shipping artists work, but give them the movement to tell their stories themselves
The participants included a diverse representation of Yemen’s geography, gender, and artistic displaces such as filmmakers, musicians, actors and visual artists, in addition to Qatar-based cultural institutions. This diversity enriched the debates and raised issues such as the gap in the flow of opportunities for those in the diaspora and those residing in Yemen, thus calling for a collaborative platform to support networking, boost transnational collaboration and channel the access to opportunities for Yemeni artists. Throughout three thematic panels, the participants came up with concrete solutions, which are currently being translated by UNESCO in a roadmap to support cultural and creative industries in Yemen. "Through the energy of the participants here, I imagine that you will be able to bolster youth-led cultural programming and look to ways to harness creativity to ultimately build a bridge to peace for Yemen through innovation and cultural expression.," said Amir Berbic, Dean of Virginia Commonwealth University of the Arts in Qatar which hosted this event.
According to Anna Paolini, the director of the UNESCO Office for GCC and Yemen, “at personal risk, youth groups have struggled and used their craft in pro-peace campaigns for dialogue and national reconciliation”. With the support of the European Union, UNESCO launched the Project “Cash for Work: Promoting Livelihood Opportunities for Urban Youth in Yemen” (12 M. USD). It aims at providing youth with economic and cultural alternatives to participating in the conflict, through engagement in urban rehabilitation activities and cultural programming that will improve livelihoods, revitalize Yemen’s thriving pre-war cultural pluralism, and safeguard the country’s unique cultural heritage. The project includes several support activities, such as small grants for youth-led cultural programming, youth capacity building in cultural and creative industries, inclusion in policy dialogue, and large-scale cash-for-work activities to rehabilitate public heritage and infrastructure in four historic cities (Sana’a, Shibam, Zabid and Aden).
The Forum achieved a consensus on identifying the most salient challenges and productive avenues to promote equitable opportunities for sustainable cultural development for Yemeni youth. Recommendations included ideas for UNESCO to sponsor in upcoming initiatives for youth cultural programming, as well as proposals for reformulating funding modalities through innovative and gender-sensitive designs contextualized to the realities of the Yemeni cultural sector. In addition to creating livelihoods in cultural production for Yemeni artists, a positive secondary outcome of sustainability initiatives for Yemeni artistry is the emergence of greater opportunities for artistic innovation and the move from instant works to long-term and collective sustainable creative experiments.