In an interview with Arabstoday, Yemeni poet Abdulrahamn Ghilan tells how political upheaval has left the cultural arena in his country "half-paralysed," criticises Yemeni intelligentsia and warns against the "dangerous stupidity" implicit in transposing other countries' political experiments onto Yemen.
Commenting on the cross-fertilisation between culture and politics, Ghilan said: "Culture in Yemen rests on two pillars. One is the country's rich cultural and human heritage, and the other is contemporary which progresses through contact with Arab and foreign cultures. But, because political reality reflects back on us, one certainly notices, for example, that cultural, media and political openness have increased following the so-called Arab Spring revolutions. But the general scene is still buried under heaps of failures and irregularities, which makes the Yemeni cultural scene half-paralysed because of all the changes that are still quite unclear."
"Cultural work undoubtedly continues to reflect political reality and the relative interest that politicians take in culture and the intelligentsia," he added.
"As I said, the cultural scene in Yemen is half-paralysed due to the current events which have thrown Yemen into a violent political maelstrom that remains partly obscured so we cannot yet testify lucidly on the state of the cultural scene. I believe cultural work is never fully successful without the political climate that fulfils its potential and brings out its humanity."
"Yemenis who practice the creative arts strive in every way available to them at home, but they are still besieged by stumbling blocks and various sorts of bumps in the roads that really stop them catching up to the progressive and contemporary ethos seen across the map of Arab art.
"A Yemeni artist would have done everything to transcend the frustrations that are planted in his way on purpose and others that are just there and expended all his energy for contact with Arab artistic products, through Arab newspapers, social networking websites or satellite channels. But there are still a lot of obstacles in the way that are stopping artists from achieving their full potential on the Arab scene.
About the role of the intelligentsia in the political movement in Yemen, he said: "The foulest product of the Arab Spring is probably that it exposed the reality of some members of the cultural elite. Some of them had several realities too, in line with the dehumanised and irrational context. The various loyalties became apparent and so did the fact that they were placed ahead of society's interests, each according to his theory and a combined total of convictions which concealed at the bottom of his under an ideology, all according to personal tendencies and feelings. But the question remains, for how long will the intelligentsia continue to follow politicians? Is there hope that would address the fears of the poor, miserable citizen who was taken in by the intelligentsia's glamour and their chameleonic theories? And yet a small genuine, enlightened intelligentsia that is motivated by patriotism has appeared and they transcend all partisan and political interests and have championed their country's causes."
Ghilan also denied that he is releasing a new book of poetry: "There is nothing new other than whatever improvisations which fingers scatter about in this critical moment that my country is going through, and which go every which way into various kinds of moulds which end only to begin again. These are formed on the canvass of social networking pages and some national dailies."
"Yemen is currently at a critical turning point due to accumulated history and the direct confrontation that followed in the form of the so-called Arab Spring, which Yemen went for emotionally and impulsively in an attempt to mimic Arab experiences. A lot of the young people were unaware of the dangerous that would be unleashed. They did not go back to a store of knowledge and quickly study the lay of the land in reality to discover what is required to support the continuity of the revolution. So those whose heart, minds and pockets were made to incline pounced on it and destroyed the genuine outburst which had appeared in the most beautiful images of youthful upheaval thirsty for a future Yemen with no regard for power.
"So we hope that the Dialogue Conference in March will put aside our trivial complaints so we can agree on terms that would heal the major sources of shared pain and find practical solutions to shield us from the threats that surround us."He adds in conclusion: "What the Arab public is going through, and not just Yemen, drives us to seek constructive exchange of human experience in healing rifts and finding a path to salvation through the simplest routes, without adding complications that achieve nothing but exhaust already-sick societies with noble and trivial conflicts and disagreements. We Arab nations are facing a grave moment and are in the throes of successive crises. If we don't place society's best interests ahead of our own, we will never reach a safe harbour. We will remain prisoners of our accumulated failures, longing for them and circling them and then paying a dear price for our endless horrors.
"There is no shame in one country's experienced being repeated in another as long as it brings forth sound, ripe fruit for building society. Insisting on copying the ills of an experiment without heeding its catastrophic consequences and claiming to possess patriotic spirit without ridding ourselves of mimicry, however, is dangerous stupidity."