The Art of Jewelry Making in Old Sana’a

Sala Alawadhi, a Yemeni born Parisian resident photographer, attempted to bring the making of handicraft from Old Sana’a market to Black Camel readers. Tourists usually purchase the final product rather see it with one’s eyes of the process from selection to making the jewelry. Sala’s Jewelry Making series provides an insight to the old profession used to occupy by the Yemeni Jews. [ The series is up for sale. Contact the admin for more information.]

Photography and Narrative by Sala Alawadhi
Interviewed by Hisham Abdualziz (Check his Jambia series)

Hisham: When did you realize you are interested in photography?
Sala Alawadhi: 
I discovered my fondness for photography in my last year in Paris. I started off by taking picture using my father’s old Nokia phone and from there on I saw good composition in my photographs. I then shifted to a regular digital camera where I would take random pictures of anything. The thrill I got from taking pictures had me realise that I absolutely love photography. Returning home in 2008 I continued my hobby until I decided to buy a professional camera in 2010 and started a Flickr account. I finally decided that I should take photography as a serious hobby and start working on it.

Hisham: What does photography means to you and what inspires your work?
Sala: Often people would say that a photograph is filled with a thousand words.  But the way I see it is: As we all know and would agree, a photography is a motionless 2D image that has been captured at a certain moment to express a certain feeling or situation. But for me, I can’t help but see photography is a 3D mobile actionable real life situation that reveals the moment I am expereicing my surroundings. I feel it all, whether a photograph was taken in Cuba or India or Africa or Europe; during war or during peace; in the 19th century or this year; during hunger or during wealth; abstract or concrete; whether I have been to these places or not; I am there. Photographs take me on so many journeys solely by looking at a well composed one. And that is what inspires my photography. It triggers a feeling of attendance and inexplicable elation and completely reflects the sensation on me, leaving me feeling whatever the image is conveying. And that is also why I take pictures, so that people could feel the same.

Hisham: How can you represent your yemeni identity through your photos ?
Sala: Yemen is erupting with cultural diversity, from accents, to costumes, to symbols, to architectural structures and so on. Despite adversity, I for one aim to represent and store my yemeni identity by taking pictures of Yemen’s customs and social behaviour which all the same represent the cultural diversity. It is a way to share with the world what we are and what we do. For example, in my photo-essay about Jewel making in Yemen (in Old Sana’a more specifically) I tried to portray the Yemeni identity through the material, the process, the shapes, and the result as proof of what we can do and how a jewel in Yemen would look like. In other images, I would capture a certain tradition being practiced to also spread how we behave from day to day and how different yet the same we all are.

Hisham: Is there any behind the scene stories happened while you were shooting  photo-essay ?
Sala: While I was shooting my photo-essay I met with wonderful and truly genuine people. The best part about going to the Old City is that I can truthfully feel accommodated, warmed and welcomed by everyone. And since my essay was about jewellery, I met with three jewel makers that restored my faith in good-will and honesty. I was often greeted with some tea and sweets. I learned plenty from them about jewellery and the history of jewellery in Yemen. I heard about the problems they were facing with imitation of Yemeni jewels and fake Yemeni rocks “Akeek” by other countries. All I can say is they were simple people with simple equipment making fascinating wonders.

As you enter the big door of the old city of Sana'a, and as you go further inside you begin to see a vast variety of shops lined one after the other

As you enter the big door of the old city of Sana’a, and as you go further inside you begin to see a vast variety of shops lined one after the other

One of many shopping aisles of the Old City of Sana'a .

A common jewellery shop with versatile shapes and colours. One of many shopping aisles of the Old City of Sana’a
.

A man voluntarily advertises his jewels using the commonly known strategy: modelling.

A man voluntarily advertises his jewels using the commonly known strategy: modelling.

A common jewellery shop with versatile shapes and colours.

A common jewellery shop with versatile shapes and colours.

The making process of a Jewel: The jewel-maker melts the silver to be able to make silver strings for his new piece.

The making process of a Jewel: The jewel-maker melts the silver to be able to make silver strings for his new piece.

He then takes the melted silver tube after it has cooled down and compresses it into this machine that enables the silver tube to look like a thread.

He then takes the melted silver tube after it has cooled down and compresses it into this machine that enables the silver tube to look like a thread.

He later puts all the string pieces together and heats them as to stick together

He later puts all the string pieces together and heats them as to stick together

He then takes the famous Yemeni rock known as "Akeek" that is usually used to decorate jewellery in Yemen.

He then takes the famous Yemeni rock known as “Akeek” that is usually used to decorate jewellery in Yemen.

A Woman makes the same trip through the Old city and into the jewellery aisles only to find the suitable piece she likes.

A Woman makes the same trip through the Old city and into the jewellery aisles only to find the suitable piece she likes.

The piece is finally complete and ready to be worn.

The piece is finally complete and ready to be worn.

 The woman wears her new necklace to a party accompanied by the rest of the traditional Yemen costume. .


The woman wears her new necklace to a party accompanied by the rest of the traditional Yemen costume.
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