September 15, 2012 |
Murals hold the potential to evoke a wide range of emotions in any society. These artistic representations of cultural, social, or economic issues and events can transform communities, as well as deliver universal messages that breach the barriers of culture and language, uniting peoples and promoting dialogue about complex and often over-looked subjects present within society. Once this dialogue has been opened however, they can generate increased awareness of obstacles to equality, justice, or freedom, or even change the views and opinions on these pertinent topics. On September 15, 2012 in the city street of Sana’a, Yemen, WCI-ALWANE, created a vivid mural advocating women’s rights and gender equality. In Arabic, “alwane” means “my colors”, a phrase that illustrates the ability to paint one’s own future and the power of diversity in leading change. ALWANE Yemen believes that with artistic expression, messages of social change and empowerment truly take hold in all levels of society. The committee has found that culture and art are enjoyable approaches to deliver ideas and messages of the ALWANE Coalition to a wider audience. To complete the ambitious project, a group of young men and women came together, all artists as well as volunteers of WCI’s ALWANE Coalition, to deliver and promote the message of gender equity and female empowerment that the coalition tirelessly fights for every day. Though painting the mural took just seven hours, it was the result of weeks of planning, with the committee vigorously working to overcome obstacles to artistic as well as female expression within the nation. Difficulties arose when searching for a wall with maximum community member exposure, and even once a suitable spot was found, logistical problems surfaced around the feasibility of preparing and painting the wall itself. In addition to geographic constraints, societal issues also surfaced, as it is unusual for women to stand in the streets for long periods of time. However, the ALWANE Yemen was able to overcome these impediments with grace in order to complete the unique and attention-grabbing mural. When referring to conquering differences to overcome hardships, Hind Ali, a Yemen committee member, felt that “the best part of the project was that a group of young men and women who differ on the individual level could come together to agree on one idea and try to deliver it to others together and in the same way… this represents a microcosm of what actually exists in life.” The mural beautifies a stone wall in Sana’a, and has attracted viewers from around the community through its bright, vivid colors. A wide blue sky, representing an infinite essence open to people from all walks of life, greets visitors to the piece, evoking a message of equality that can resonate with the entire nation. The ALWANE symbol (a silhouette of a woman behind a colorful backdrop) is painted multiple times against the blue in a variety of colors reinforcing the theme of diversity, and emphasizing the message that we are all able to paint our own futures. Ms. Ali states that the women are purposely depicted in different colors to emphasize diversity, but that it also illustrates that “we all share the same world to rise together to the top.” The colors themselves play an integral part of the mural’s overall message of equality and empowerment, as primary colors are used to represent a woman’s existence in society as an essential basic entity. Secondary colors are then used to explain that women’s roles in society can (and should) expand, which will allow more women to strive for a brighter future. Feedback from the community has been positive, with many people attracted to the mural by the bright colors as well as the skill of the work. The mural has also achieved its ultimate goal of creating awareness and dialogue around women’s rights in Yemen, the region, and the world. According to Ms. Ali, audiences have also expressed feelings of admiration towards ALWANE Yemen and their mission. With the beautiful representation of the ALWANE Coalition’s work, the Yemen committee has proudly displayed their “colors” for the country, and the world, to see. Special thanks to : Yemeni artists Hend Al-Shakaa and Shefaa Al-Shaebi and WCI interns Desire Guthier and Aaron Spangler for contributing this blog!