Shaima Al-Tamimi | As If We Never Came

Country of origin: Yemen
Project location: Yemen
Program: Arab Documentary Photography Project
Year: 2019

I am child of ancestral movement, mixture, and assimilation. My mother is third generation Kenyan with Yemeni roots, and my father also of Yemeni origin, who emigrated three times before finally settling in the UAE.

The people of Yemen are known for their travels and immigration over many centuries. From our soil of origin we have scattered, planting roots in foreign lands, adorned with traces of where we once came from. As a child growing up in the Gulf, I had little awareness regarding the origins of my Afro-Yemeni mix and identity. It was not until much later, after researching and meeting people of Yemeni descent like myself, including Indian-Yemenis, Indo-Yemenis, and British Yemenis that I discovered an entire subculture connecting us across countries and borders. Our journeys are linked by the languages we speak, the fabrics we wear, and the flavours of our cuisine - vibrant and rich, despite a succession of colonization, wars, and constant migration.

"As if we never came" is a long-term visual project inspired by my family's journey and my personal struggle to understand the complexity of who we are today as Yemeni diaspora. In the face of the near absence of a recorded narrative about our history, I’ve felt the personal need to retrace my own family's journey as a step towards honoring the journey of all Yemeni diaspora communities, encouraging others like myself to own our identity and take back the voice I feel we have lost as bystanders in transit.