As a Hadrami, jambia is not a culture symbol to me. Although I grew up in Sana’a and my family live in Sana’a for a long time, we do not wear jambia. After this photo shooting activity, I learnt more about jambia than the Sana’ani.
Jambia is more than a cultural symbol. It represents dignity, honor, and reputation of the Yemeni men. Through the lens of camera, Hisham Abdulaziz presents a series of photos document the traditional jambia making process and its role and values in the Sana’ani culture. His photographs have won him a first photo-essay prize from the french francophonie competition in photojournalism and photo-essay.
Jambia, a dagger with a short curved blade that is worn on a belt, characteristics of Yemeni people.
The hilt or handle, is the most significant part. In fact, the price of a jambia is in most cases determined by its hilt. The saifani is the most expensive type. It is made of rhinoceros’s horns, other types of hilts are made of different types of horns or wood.
After shaping of the hilt, multiple holes are made using a drill, these holes are filled with gold, silver or copper.
The blade is double sided, with a protrusion in the middle part that allows it to fit in its sheath. Hilt and blade are attached together using liquified olibanum as an adhesive.
Jambia’s sooq, here is the market where you can buy Jambias, so many shops showing so many jambias at different shapes, qualities and prices.
The sheath of the blade is made of wood and animal’s leather. It then attached to the belt.
Women also have a role to play in the process of making Jambia. The sewing of belts of Jambias are usually a job for women in their homes to do. There are many shapes and decorations, and it takes about four weeks to finish one belt. Unfortunately a very serious problem have appeared, which is the importing of already made belts, so those women are left jobless.
[Behind the Scene: Her father owns a jambia shop in Old Sana’a. She sews it and her father sells them. When I was shooting him, I asked him about jambia and he was very kind. I took a little infomation from here and there. I asked him about the sewing. I want to shoot a photo of it. He was like what! Are you serious? I told him that I have this photo essay project… He gave me one condition: he didn’t want her eyes to be shown in the photo. I promised that I would not do that. It was difficult to get the concept right without shooting the eyes. I tried different angles and was tough for me. I created the studios there. It took me half an hour to get the one I satisfied.]
Final touches are made to make the Jambia more shiny.
Inside the sooq, shops are open daily from the early morning till the late evening, a continuous process and everyone enjoying what they are doing.
[Behind the Scene: I was sitting in this man’s shop to wait for the perfect moment to shoot. The owner was annoyed by me and he was like whatever if you want to sit here. I have been sitting in the shop for half an hour. The perfect came when two men passing by. It took me less than five minuets to shoot it but half an hour to wait for it. I think it is worth. 🙂 ]
As Jambia represents dignity of Yemeni men, if someone had done anything shameful to someone else, it is common that he will hand over his own Jambia to that person to ask for forgiveness, this is known as “Jah”.
Bara’a dance, it was used in ancient times to scares enemy tribes, by waving with the blades of Jambia, as Jambia is a symbol of courage and dignity of its holders. Nowadays the same dance is performed in events, such as marriage ceremonies.
In some tribes it is a tradition that when a bride is leaving her house, to be moved to her husband, she holds a Jambia of her father or brothers, to show her belonging to the family and the pride and dignity her family name carries, others think that this may also save her from envy or bad souls.