Written By: Eman al-Jarady
Article Date: Mar 22, 2008 - 2:43:57 AM
Morshed Sanad stands in front of his detailed replicas of Yemeni buildings.
Showing the heritage of one’s country through art is challenging and distinguished work. To have the talent and ability to show that heritage through creations of wood is unbelievable. Morshed Ali Sanad, a carpenter in his fifties, was honored for his woodworking during the 2004 Arab Cultural Capital celebrations. Among his most notable works are miniature models representing buildings constructed in traditional Yemeni style. His works are also highly regarded by foreigners who are attracted to traditional Yemeni styling.
“One time, I visited my cousin, who had made a very beautiful model out of plaster which really attracted me. I asked him to do one for me, but he wanted me to pay him YR20,000. When I came home I decided to do one for myself, but in wood instead of plaster,” said Sanad.
After retiring, Sanad did not know what to do and how to spend his free time. He says that he just stayed at home without doing anything special, but one day things changed. “I started using my long experience in carpentry to build models [depicting] Yemeni heritage. I care about old things, however, they force me to work more on them and spend a lot of time.” He said that his aim is to show Yemeni heritage to others who do not know of the rich, dynamic civilization. Sanad pointed out that the modern style of building is closer to European styles and are not as attractive to foreigners because they are already familiar with it.
Sanad’s first model was a TV table with a small building over it. It worked out so well that he started doing other similar models. He said that what he cares most about is Yemeni heritage and traditions. “I love the old Yemeni castles. Therefore, I built a very big miniature of Dar Al-Hajar.”
The exquisite details of the miniature of Dar Al-Hajar, constructed from only wood and glue, reveal the artistry of the creators of both replica and original. Sanad was assisted in his work by his children, and it took them a full year to complete the project. This miniature is considered one of his most attractive works, and is one that he has spent the most time on.
For materials, Sanad uses special woods for his work, and does not limit himself to using only one type. “I usually use Swedish wood because it is soft and can be easily formed. But when I want to do something like an old castle, I have to use Yemeni wood because its color is closer to that of these castles. Also, it ages well; it does not become old or damage easily,” he said.
One of Sanad’s intricate creations on display.
When Sanad constructs a Qamrya [a Yemeni style of forms built over windows], he uses both plaster and cork, depending on the size. “If the Qamrya is small, I build it with cork, but if it is bigger, I use plaster because it is very difficult to draw on cork.”
Sanad said that the first one who encouraged him in his work was Khalid al-Rawyshan, the former Minister of Culture. “When al-Rawyshan saw my models, he was attracted to them. He was the first one who bought my models. In addition, he organized an exhibition of my work at the Yemeni Culture House which gave me the chance to show my works to others.”
“Yemenis do not pay as much attention to my work because they are members of this community and already know its heritage. Foreigners are more attracted by my work, and they [are willing to pay] higher prices,” said Sanad and through the Small Micro Enterprise Promotion Service (SMEPS), he is now able to sell his works to foreigners.
Sanad says that he always tries to vary the models he gives to SMEPS. Foreigners tend to ask for different models and they do not ask for the same model twice. Recently, he says that foreigners have been more attracted by the old doors of Yemeni houses, also and has begun incorporating these doors into his work.
Through his life-long career turned hobby, Sanad has developed into an artist that uses his skills to promote the heritage of his country. The money that he receives from selling his models provides his children with their needs, as well as the ability to create more of the beautiful objects that are admired by many around the world.
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