Inside Out Project Yemen with Black Camel

Having been a follower of JR’s activity for years, when I heard of Inside Out Project in Sana’a, I was eager to meet the team. JR exhibits freely in the streets of the world, catching the attention of people who are not typical museum visitors. He creates InsideOut, an international participatory art project that allows people worldwide to get their picture and paste it to support an idea, a project, an action and share their experience. His work mixes Art and Act, talks about commitment, freedom, identity and limit. Inside Out Sanaa is an art initiative aimed at creating a portrait of Yemen that includes people from all walks of life. Black Camel was fortunate to have a talk with Rooj Alwazir, one of the organizers of the project.

1. what’s your Inside out project message?

This project is about revealing the faces of the people forced to live under a media narrative of terrorism and hopelessness. We are worth so much more than than these misrepresentations and misconceptions.

We are Yemeni women and men and we are capable, strong, proud human beings, and we need to be represented, by ourselves, as such. We come in all sizes, shapes, and colors. We have stories and histories. This project is about countering the dominant terrorism and hopelessness narrative that is destroying our families, communities and this land.

2. what inspired you for this project?

There is lot of interesting ways people have been addressing social justice issues in Yemen, from caricature to graffiti art, from street theater and poetry to music and photography. What inspired me specfically about doing the Inside Out project here was that we were using photography as a way to create an alternative space in which counter narratives can be told and shared. Spaces like this are necessary for building community and initiating larger socio-political shifts. The need for such a space was clear from the amount of people talking about wanting to reclaim their stories and their futures in their own ways, that was the biggest push for me to make this happen.

3. You have done Inside Out in U.S, based on your experience, what impact you want on the Yemeni society and in an international level?

Yemeni society: to represent ourselves and to spur dialogue. On the international level, we are human beings just like you, treat as and respect us as such. We have pressing and dire issues that are taking the lives of our brothers and sisters everyday, and I am in absolutely no way minimizing this reality. We are in a country where outside forces are playing a big role in how we live our lives. In order to justify the US drone program against the Yemeni people in this country, we must be painted as terrorists. The dominant narrative of terrorism and hopelessness in Yemen has been used to start wars, infringe freedoms, obscure corruption and misrepresent reality, it continues to marginalize our peoples, and ignores and erases our existence.. Media narratives also feed into this ongoing cycle, and until we demand and stand for more, our contemporary existence (and therefore the “real” problems in Yemen) simply doesn’t exist in the minds of the people in power who have control in shaping our future and our lives. These portraits are our form of resistance. We are human beings. See us and treat us as such.

4. How do you choose the strategic places?

to display the photos? we’re taking field trips…going around sanaa scouting out the areas that we think get good foot traffic or create and spur dialogue.

5. It has no problem to photograph the men but how you convince the women or girls to participate due to society norms?

we’re doing this project to express ourselves and to be part of something bigger. But to create a movement of change, we must have women be a part of this. Doing so means we must be challenging the space but i don’t think it’s about convincing women as much as it is about providing women safe opportunities to engage in public space. It’s been challenging more so because these pictures will be publicly displayed which is seen as a big “taboo” here but this is an opportunity to also be challenging our patriarchal culture.

6. what are the challenges/obstacle for your team?

It’s pretty bold what we’re doing the most challenging is displaying the photos

7. Can you tell us something about you?

I am Yemeni by blood but American by birth, I have a deep love and passion for digital storytelling, espressos and social justice. I am a co-founder of a media collective called SupportYemen.

8. do you have more plan for Inside Out in other country?

no. but looking to launch in other cities within Yemen.

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