Yemen – a journey back in time 

Monique Jacot

Yemen has not been a country for tourists for years, much less for journalists and photographers. But Swiss photojournalist Monique Jacot went there frequently in the 1980s. Her work on Yemen can be seen at the Cantonal and University Library of Lausanne until March 1. 

This content was published on February 18, 2020
Monique Jacot (photos) Thair Alsaadi (text)

“I fell in love with the country immediately,” says Jacot, now 85. Through her camera we see architecture, culture and different facets of everyday life. Originally, she simply wanted to discover the architecture in Yemen, as tourists do, she explained in an interview linked to the exhibition. 

Jacot travelled through Yemen for over ten years and took many photographs. Today, because of the ongoing war, these photos make Jacot and the Yemenis both nostalgic and sad at the same time.  

It was not easy for her to move freely in Yemen at that time as a foreign photographer, because people did not want her to, or because the authorities forbade her to do so. That is why she travelled from place to place in groups of three to four people. Sometimes her destination was closed to foreigners, so she had to improvise and constantly change her travel route, she explains. 

Alexandra Weber Berney, curator at the University Library in Lausanne, says the exhibition has no direct link to the current situation in Yemen. It is the result of a meeting between Monique Jacot and Virginie Jaton, editor at "Editions Couleurs d'encre", to whom the photographer gave 30 "Yemeni frescoes". Virginie Jaton decided to make a book of them, which the library acquired.  

This book is the origin of the exhibition, which Berney describes as a “poetic project" - not only because of the photographs but also because it includes poems. These are taken from a collection published in French in the 1980s called "Poems of the Yemeni Revolution", including the poem "Death, Love and Freedom" by Muhammad Shaltami.    

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