Last February Melissa McCaig Wells, along with Curators Victoria Latysheva, Charlotte Hamson presented in New York TRUMPOMANIA, an international exhibition surrounding the topic of Donald Trump and the Republican administration in the US.
The exhibition ran in NYC March 1-5, in correlation with The Armory Show and Armory Arts Week, to a worldwide audience.
TRUMPOMANIA featured one artist from over thirty countries, each exhibiting one work illustrating their interpretation of the election of Trump creating a dialogue about what this presidency means to artists around the world and their illustration on how this will affect the future of all nations.
Melissa pushed the boundaries further and opened the doors of the exhibition also to the children of Yemen, affected by – at the time – 2 years of endless war (aggression by US-backed/Saudi led Coalition). Now it’s 970 days of war.
Not only Trump’s ban on Muslim countries included Yemen, but America’s inconsiderate arms sales to Saudi Arabia (110 billion USD) are part of the maiming and killing of thousands of children of Yemen.
Drone strikes have seen a sharp rise (over 100 in 2017 by the Trump administration) and without US logistical, technical (refueling of Coalition’s aircrafts bombing Yemen) and intelligence guiding, the Coalition would not have been able to cause such a level of destruction.
The situation on the ground between February and today has worsened beyond belief: the country is under lockdown, no aid enters while 20 million of Yemenis are dependent on aid; 50.000 children are expected to die by the end of the year of famine, curable diseases, cholera, diphtheria, meningitis or just because too weak to continue living.
Three cities (Saada, Hodeidah, Taiz) have no more access to safe water as the fuel is not entering the country and Sanaa, the Capital, will be next.
Cholera outbreak – of biblical proportions – will most likely affect 1 million people by the end of the new year, with over 2000 casualties officially recorded.
For TRUMPOMANIA, last January and February, we collected drawings from Yemeni children (who happen to be the only reason behind everything we have been doing for the past 970 days day) asking them if there was something they wanted to say, to add beyond the headlines or lack of media coverage. Children spoke their language through drawings and scribblings and the results were appalling. Chronicles of daily scenes of massacres and warplanes, destruction, fire and blood.
The drawings here below (just a part of a large collection) were gathered for TRUMPOMANIA by two registered Yemeni NGOs: Human Needs Develooment – HND and Your Abilities Organization and, on World Children Day we leave it here. As a ‘j’accuse‘ for us all.
To see a young boy, no more than seven or eight, crying because of the war, is something we will never get accustomed to. Qasim Ali Al-Shawea – in the picture – of Your Abilities Yemeni NGO ( منظمة قدراتك للتنمية your.abilities.org ) writes:
”Every day I meet a child, family, displaced people during my work with my team and I have a close look at people’s unbearable conditions, how they try to stay safe, alive in such a humanitarian disaster. I see children sleeping at night with empty stomachs, after having fought hunger for several days. I meet many families who have fled their homes to live hopeless, homeless in displacement camps; I am seeing a daily nightmare, a tragedy I have never seen…ever, in my life. How not to mention the Cholera outbreak which is decimating lives while hospitals are full with patients. What is happening in Yemen is really inhuman, illegal and unfair. We are human beings and have human hearts, the world shouldn’t keep ignoring the children and women’s suffering. Every child deserves to live a better life.”
I asked Qasim why was the young boy shedding so helplessly and he replied:
”He told me that he and his family used to have a better life. That was before bombs fell on their home. He was crying because his brother was killed there, at home, under a missile. Now they are living in a tent in a displacement camp. They have nothing to eat, monsoon rains enter the only abode they have. He wants clothes… he really asked me a lot: new clothes, toys, a chance to study. He is a clever child. I felt so sad for him and their life, the hard conditions they must cope with. Heartbreaking, really.”
The picture of a child, dressed like a man in the making, with a jacket which most likely will be worn until it fades to a shadow of a garment, crying helplessly cannot be the emblem of childhood. Not in 2017.
Yemen has been under air strikes, blocked by a siege, crippled by cholera and famine for over eight hundred and sixty days. A number so heavy it seems too long even to write. Impossibly long for a child whose home and past have been buried under a missile.