Being an artist in a conservative society often has its drawbacks; many creatives feel stifled by the lack of freedom these societies sometimes pose. Yemeni visual artist and photographer Ibi Ibrahim shares this sentiment, yet feels it is because of this conservatism that he must produce work that takes an intricate look into the depths of the society, its affect on one’s psyche, and the ever-evolving role that love plays.
Ibi says, “I am inspired by love. Moments in love. Moments out of love. This has been the main subject of my most recent work. For my previous collection, ‘Social Codes’, my inspiration was my own upbringing in a conservative society. The challenges of being Muslims vis a vis issues of identity, and other complex facets of self-expression.”
Though Beirut, Cairo, Dubai and Amman are known for their burgeoning art scenes, Yemen still has a ways to go before reaching that status. Ibi admits that it poses certain challenges: “In particular being from Yemen, a country that has a bizarre reputation in the Middle East related to poverty and illiteracy, I feel I have a duty to show who we really are. I live between conflict of being an artist, and then being a Yemeni artist.” Despite the challenges he faces, he is committed to producing work both in and outside of Yemen, and sharing them proudly along with his nationality.
In times of extreme change coupled with all the mounting political and economic instability in the region, art is proving a necessary escape offering the incredibly profound ability to depart expression, yearning, culture and ultimately, love.