Ibi Ibrahim is an American Yemeni artist, writer, filmmaker and musician. After creating the Romooz Foundation, a non-profit supporting emerging artists and writers in Yemen, he went on to establish ARSHEEF, a contemporary art gallery based in Sana’a. Ibi’s projects have won many awards from organisations including the Institut Français Artist-in-Residence, the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture, Prince Claus Fund, British Council and Red Bull Middle East.

We asked Ibi which ISHKAR pieces are inspiring Ibi this spring. 

“I travel quite often. At least, I did before Covid-19. At first I thought my picks would be towards the stories and experiences on ISHKAR but I couldn’t help myself from being drawn to objects. I am at a phase in my life where I am urged to collect objects that remind me of places I once visited. I think being in quarantine for nearly a year has brought me to this state of mind. “

Yahya Lanterns 

I am familiar with the Yahya Lanterns as I saw the video that illustrates the production of the lanterns by the multi-talented artist and designer Khaled Yahya a few months back on Yemen Journey’s website. It was a pleasant surprise to see the product named after Yahya on Ishkar’s website. There is a moment of pride here that I hope Yahya is able to witness and eventually helps him realize how his talent is much valued and desired. 

Many years ago while living in Yemen, I owned numerous lanterns made by artisans in the old city of Sana’a. Aside from being absolutely stunning pieces, they came in handy with the constant electricity cuts in Yemen. I vividly remember those nights like they were yesterday. Those beautifully designed lanterns were a source of bringing people together, marvelling at the glowing light and exchanging conversations. They served as a an occasion for the elders in the family to take us back in time with their endless folktales. I love the power in those lanterns in bringing those moments to life. 

Tutankhamun Coasters 

Coasters are always my go to when it comes to gifting a house-warming present to a friend. Mine are beautiful white marble coasters with Indian goddess sketches I purchased years ago from Goa. If I were to replace them, it would be for these stunning beautiful Tutankhamun coasters. As a designer, I hold a special interest in indigo and linen fabrics. I find Indigo helps remind me of the beautiful past of my own culture. Having products that remind me of this past is always important for me in my everyday life. 

Yemeni Stoneware 

Although I probably have one too many Yemeni stoneware pots, (Magla in Arabic), I somehow find that I can never have enough of them. These pots last for a lifetime. I know this because my mom’s stoneware pots are as old as I am. I love the versatility of the pots as they can serve as food dishes, coffee cups, and in my case, beautiful decorative pieces by themselves. Traveling with these stonewares can be challenging if you’re like me and packing them in your suitcase ;)  The fact that one can purchase them via Ishkar and suddenly find them arriving at their doorstep is simply a dream! 

We also asked Ibi which side to Yemen he feels is often misunderstood by the general public. 

Ah, this is very difficult to answer. I think that it is not a matter of Yemen being misunderstood but rather much of Yemen is unknown. It remains a mystery to us, even locals who live in metropolitan cities. I long for the day where I can travel freely around Yemen, discover crafts in different towns and villages. I wasn’t able to do this in my own home country but traveling enabled me to do this elsewhere. Whether in small villages in the Oaxaca region in Mexico or Quang Nam region in Vietnam, those experiences are a constant reminder that I, as Yemeni, have yet to explore my own land due to the ongoing conflict. For now, I have a hope that one day I will get to experience this journey and marvel at those treasures of a place I call home 

Read more from our interview with Ibi here.

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