Yemeni Artist Uses Art to Explore a Personal Tragedy

Yemeni artist Sara Abdu’s solo exhibition, “I Only Meant To Visit,” has been impressing audiences at Saudi Arabia’s Athr Gallery in Jeddah since its opening in July. 

Abdu, 28, who was born and raised in Jeddah, has used art to explore a personal tragedy in her life — losing her uncle.

Speaking to Arab News, Abdu said that following her uncle’s death, he would constantly visit her in her dreams. “One day I stopped having those dreams so I asked: ‘Now that I have lost you in my dreams, where do we meet?’” she said.

This question is imprinted on one of her installations — with the same title. Her solid structure is a wall of soap bars made from ingredients traditionally used to wash the body.

“The exhibition is a desperate attempt to bring back those memories . . . (It) examines people’s relationship with memory and its role in forming identities and constructing our interior and exterior reality,” Abdu explained.

According to the self-taught artist, healing is one of the main themes in her exhibition. “Healing requires revisiting certain memories and confronting them,” she said.

The anchor point of her show, which she describes as “loaded with emotions,” is a verse she heard in her dream: “The unburdened is untethered by what is not of him.”

“I spent almost two weeks just contemplating and meditating on verse itself and what it means, so then I wrote a poem based on that,” she said.

Abdu began preparing for the show in 2019 but the coronavirus pandemic delayed the exhibition. It took Abdu one year to create the animations, drawings and installations for it.

Abdu’s first solo show, “The Intangible Bonds in our Existence,” was held at the Athr Gallery in 2014.

Following her first presentation, the artist, who is also interested in music, has exhibited her work at multiple galleries in Saudi Arabia and Paris.

Her work is also in the collection of The Green Box Museum in Amsterdam.

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