The 100 Cans crew at work.
Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer
A new documentary production titled 100 Cans, highlights landmines and their dangers. Landmines pose terrible dangers and wreak havoc on soldiers and civilians alike, causing severe damage. Society suffers for endless years even after conflicts where they were used, have ended.
The film is directed by Mazen Al Khayrat who follows Canadian/Iraqi graffiti artist Saif Chilmiran. Chilmiran goes to Yemen amidst the conflict there and meets with de-mining teams, local artists and members of the local community, to create moments of relief.
The graffiti works seen in the film are reflections of the artist’s and the community’s experiences during a crucial point in the country’s history. Children, unfazed by the daily risks of exploding landmines, observe the new art created and struggling families gossip about foreign visitors and the new colours they have brought to town.
Despite ambivalent emotions and risky challenges, a tone of hope is created and an authentic documentation of the threats of landmines and also the power of dialogue, is established.
Chilmiran is an emerging painter based in the United Arab Emirates who has exhibited his work internationally. Influenced by his experiences growing up with the multicultural underground Punk scene of the late 90s, he seeks to visually depict his observations of denial of reality and candy-covered culture. He taps into a range of themes in his work, from environmental topics to conceptual ideas.
He was born in 1990, and from frozen Toronto, grew up during the economic boom of Abu Dhabi. At around nine years old in the late 90s, he was part of a multicultural underground Punk scene, developed by diverse youth. It is what sparked the fire in him to visually communicate his observations through artwork. Solace is a series of artworks resulting from noticing that, from friends to family, everyone was consuming at least one pill a day.
The Spring series began in 2011 as a response to the Arab Spring. Flowers blossom in spring and so did the revolution, says Chilmiran. Garbage is a series created entirely from garbage using spray paint, paint brushes, crayons, knives and more, intuitively arranged to form a sculpture visually resembling flower bouquets. The artist raises the question: At what stage of the consumption cycle is an object considered garbage?
Al Khayrat has had a long career in media communications. He has initiated various media campaigns and has written, produced and directed numerous documentaries, corporate videos and short films on environment, society and culture.
He said that “100 Cans film not only sheds light on the problem of the proliferation of mines in times of war and the serious effects on civilians and development, but is a living model and a message of motivation to all community, for the need of positive initiatives towards change for the better, according to ability and field, just like constant water drops make a hole in the rock and grains of sand form the dunes.”
“The camera,” he added, “captures different colours made by a selected graffiti artist, to experience the wretched life, rather than the flashy one, risking our lives, bringing hope again amongst the ruins, armed with a spirit of colour, charged with its energy and communicating with the strength and unity of its language.” Filming took place in Mocha, a principal port for Yemen until the 19th century. Mocha was famous for being the major marketplace for coffee (Coffea arabica) from the 15th century until the early 18th century. Mocha coffee taste was prized for its distinctive flavour — it remains so today.
The coffee itself did not grow in Mocha, but was transported from places inland to the port in Mocha, where it was shipped abroad. Mocha’s coffee legacy is reflected in the name of the mocha latte and the Moka pot coffee maker.
The place reached the zenith of its fame in the 17th century, owing to its coffee trade. English, Dutch and French companies maintained factories there, which remained a major emporium and coffee exporting port, until the early 19th century. Mocha’s imported coffee beans came from present-day Ethiopia, which was exported by Somali merchants from Berbera across the Gulf of Aden.
Nowadays, Mocha is no longer utilised as a major trade entrepot and the current local economy is largely based on fishing and a small number of tourist visitors. Yemen is experiencing several crises inside its borders. One such problem is the large number of landmines and improvised explosive devices scattered throughout the country.
They are buried even in busy areas, where hospitals and schools are located. The Yemeni government believes that landmines are so widespread, it could take multiple decades to remove all of them. To make matters worse, some landmines are configured to be more deadly. For instance, an anti-tank mine that normally needs 220 pounds of weight for detonation, may only need 22 pounds of pressure to detonate, with modifications. Yemenis are unable to undertake simple tasks needed for survival, such as raising crops or obtaining clean water, due to the presence of landmines. Landmines also prevent humanitarian organisations from travelling to reach people and areas in need.
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