Artist in Yemen

I will be in Sana'a, Yemen, May 27-July 10 2006. I'll be working on my Arabic language skills and painting every day, walking around asking questions about food and gardens and perfume and incense. I'll be studying and living at the Center for Arabic Language and Eastern Studies(CALES)in the Old City of Sana'a. Although I usually paint in reverse on glass, in Sana'a I'll be working in watercolor and mixed media on paper.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Najat's Wedding, Day Two

I went back to the wedding house yesterday for the naksh party. Naksh means "decoration", in this case body decoration. Not henna, which is used here to darken the palms of women's hands a solid dark brown (and dye the white beards of old men orange!), but khudab, a black skin dye that is used to make delicate leaf/vine/flower patterns on women's skin. The second day of the wedding is much like the first, only bigger, louder, more women, fancier dresses. This day Najat was beautifully dressed in a sparkledress with a hoop skirt, and instead of silver wore all gold jewelry, inicluding a beautiful two-piece gold mesh (like chain mail) face veil that showed just her eyes. Her arms were bare and showed off her fabulous body paint. Some of the women had their faces painted with khudab, delicate designs at the corners of their eyes and along their eyebrows (yoo hoo, Susan Eyde!). I'll do my best to bring lots of khudab home for all my girlfriends!
My favorite part, though, was the music and dancing. This time there was a live band: two women drummers and a woman singer with a little amp, and they rocked! It was so great, after seeing so many quiet veiled women in the streets, to see bare armed women ferociously pounding drums! They played traditional Yemeni wedding music and guests danced in pairs or groups of four. I was asked and asked and asked to dance--what does a good guest do? I danced. My teacher Sina warned me that Yemeni dancing, and Sana'ani dancing in particular, is difficult. I would agree. But everyone enjoyed the spectacle.
The party coincided with a terribly windy day, that brought with it such a dust storm that I couldn't see the mountains nearby for most of the day, so the windows of the house were kept closed. Every room was jammed tight, really tight with guests, and it was stifling hot. The hostesses passed out tissues so we could all mop our foreheads. And tea was served, this time with milk, a first for me in Yemen. Best of all, several boxes of assorted lipsticks were passed around for the guests to enjoy.
I have to be back at Najat's in an hour or so. I met a really nice woman, Fayzia, yesterday who offered to accompany me to the "european style" wedding tonight. It's at a big rented hall somewhere out in the larger city.
I'm trying to gather the energy to go. I have come down with some kind of flu: fever, chills, congestion, boneache, tired. But I don't want to miss this third and final installment of the Yemeni Wedding Show! It's really fun, and really exhausting.
I'm looking forward to tomorrow, Friday, when I have a full day with nothing planned.

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you. Don't go back to sleep. You must ask for what you really want. Don't go back to sleep. People are going back and forth across the doorsill where the two worlds touch. The door is round and open. Don't go back to sleep. -Jelaluddin Rumi