REVIEW: Stories Never Told

Friday night felt like the perfect evening to take in a thoughtful, emotional exhibit like Stories Never Told: Yemen’s Crises and Renaissance. The exhibit was held on the 10th floor of Weiser which is a view in and of itself. The walls were lined with paintings, prints, and photos taken by artists from Yemen and the Yemeni diaspora. At the back of the space was a stand put up by Qahwah House, a Yemeni cafe based in Dearborn, with coffee, tea, and treats such as sabaya (a Yemeni honey cake) drizzled with locally sourced honey. These treats were perfect to keep me company as I made my way over to the screen for the speakers and short films. Before programming began, they had screens playing music videos by Yemeni artists. A short documentary was featured telling the story of Yemeni singer-songwriter Methal and her path to releasing a song featuring the major American band X Ambassadors. They also showed an interview of a Yemeni social media influencer based in South Korea sharing her story in Arabic. I was surprised to find that, after a year and a half without practicing or using my Arabic, I was able to understand a fair amount of the video, which was necessary since there were no subtitles.
After opening remarks from the Arab American National Museum and the curator, Hanan Ali Yahyah, there was a short presentation given by an expert from Michigan State University on the background of the crisis in Yemen. This truly put things in context when watching the eight following short films. Yemen is experiencing the worst humanitarian crisis of our time and this exhibit truly portrayed that. The short film that cut the deepest was about a woman living in Yemen whose heart condition left her dependent on medication which is difficult to find in conflict-torn Yemen. At the end of the film we learned that she died four minutes before her son arrived with the medication to save her life. The audience heaved a collective sigh and we all started to understand why there were boxes of tissue along the aisles. The visual art was equally stunning and emotional. One artist expressed her struggle with identity through photographs with her face edited out. Another piece that caught my attention, as a former cellist, was a painting featuring a young girl playing cello in the wreckage of her city.

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