Being in Yemen for the first time gave me the feeling one often has of having been there before. It was not surprising, therefore, that I felt very much at home in the bustle of the market places or that, in the peace and calm of sculptured interiors, I felt an inner harmony.
The trip that took me to Yemen was organized by the Society of the Friends of the Museum of the American University of Beirut. It was to be an archeological-historical trip, but as it turned out, it also included such out-of-the-way places as Shahara, a village perched on a mountain, four-and-a-half hours up in an open truck. We also had a walk through hills and terraced vales to a mosque, visited places called Hutaib and Kahil, accessible only by foot or mule, and then walked down in misty twilight to Manakha, where the glow of lamps and candles filtered through stained glass windows into medieval lanes as village dogs barked into the night to herald our arrival.
North Yemen today is surely on its way to becoming a modern nation with all that it entails. As an artist, however, I hope I may be pardoned for liking those aspects that make it unique - and for wanting the Yemenis to preserve such aspects in a world where, too often, the result of modernity is mediocrity.
These paintings are the result of that trip to Yemen. I carried a sketch book and a camera and though people are sometimes suspicious of the latter, a pencil and a few brush strokes create the kind of fascination that cartoons have for children: they produce smiles, open doors - and warm hearts. This collection, then, is a personal memory of those smiles, those open doors and those warm hearts."
Mouim Bassili Sehnaoui studied art in Alexandria, Egypt, earned a degree in Vine Arts from the University of Arizona, and worked as a graphics designer for the National Council of Tourism in Beirut and for UNICEF. She now lives in Paris.