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Yemeni Jewelry Expert Gives Lecture @ Arab Museum May 13

posted on: Apr 12, 2016


Yemen is known for its ancient trade routes and textiles as well as the location of the first purposely cultivated coffee crops in history. Yet, throughout history Yemeni craftsman have produced some of the world’s most extraordinary silver jewelry. Symbolic of wealth in Yemeni society, women’s handmade silver jewelry often represents power, protection, beauty and personal identity.

Renowned Yemeni jewelry expert and author Marjorie Ransom will host a free public program, Jewelry Empowering Women: A Yemeni Story, at the Arab American National Museum (AANM) consisting of a free lecture and reception on Yemeni culture at 6:30 p.m. Friday, May 13 in the Aliya Hassan Auditorium. Ransom will sign copies of her new book, which will be on sale during the event. Silver Treasures from the Land Of Sheba: Regional Yemeni Jewelry (The American University in Cairo Press, 2014) highlights her vast knowledge and experience in the art of traditional Yemeni silver jewelry.

In the 1960s, Ransom’s 30-year career as a United States diplomat began. As she traveled with her husband across Yemen, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates, Syria and Egypt, they collected more than 2,000 pieces of silver jewelry. Together they sought to learn, document and preserve an art form that they both found extraordinary and beautiful. Upon retirement from the Department of State, Ransom organized the collection into what became the Silver Speaks: Traditional Jewelry of the Middle East exhibition, which AANM proudly hosted in 2007.

Ransom has lectured widely in the U.S. about the traditional jewelry of the Arab World and spoke about Yemeni silver jewelry at the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. during the Yemeni Heritage Symposium in 2003.

With the help of American Institute for Yemeni Studies research grants, Ransom spent a year in Yemen studying jewelry and costumes between 2004 and 2009. During this time, she conducted extensive research and gathered detailed perspectives from Yemeni silversmiths.

Ransom’s book is the first in-depth study of Yemeni silver, uniquely illustrated with more than 300 photographs of a world that is transforming rapidly and animated with the portraits of a precious legacy. It’s an appreciation of the economic and social importance of silver in Yemeni society before 1970 that Ransom hopes will create increased demand for these exquisite pieces of traditional silver jewelry before the craft disappears entirely.

Following Ransom’s presentation, AANM presents a performance in the Aliya Hassan Auditorium by Yemeni artist Abdulrahman Al Akhfash as part of its Global Fridays 2016 Winter/Spring Season.

This concert embodies the Yemeni tradition that most often consists of a solo singer with oud accompaniment, highlighting rhythms in subtly expressive ways. Renowned across Yemen as a musician and vocalist, Abdulrahman Al Akhfash has contributed significantly over the past 20 years to the natural development and enrichment of the Sanani repertoire. His delivery is expressive, occasionally euphoric but ultimately poetic. Concert tickets are $10 for Museum Members and $15 for the general public.

Friday, May 13, 2016

6:30 p.m. Marjorie Ransom FREE lecture and reception on Yemeni culture

8 p.m. Abdulrahman Al Akhfash (Yemeni traditional) Global Fridays concert