My portraits were exhibited alongside archival material, notably photographs by Ron Watson, who served in the Royal Engineers in Aden between 1961 and 1967, when the UK withdrew forces from Aden. Also exhibited were a range of other materials relating to the conflict.
This is my artist statement from the project:
‘When I asked him how his family was, a neighbour and friend from
Yemen told me one day that his wife and two children were in relative
safety in a village near Taiz, and that, although there were difficulties
and pressures relating to the ongoing war affecting them there, they
weren’t in direct physical danger at that time. I can’t imagine being
in his situation, yet it is only a few doors away. He later told me of a
friend of his here who’d tried to move his own family to a safer place
and they had not survived the journey.
I began to think about how this conflict reaches into the daily
lives of members of the Yemeni community in Balsall Heath, my
neighbourhood, and elsewhere, in ways that are not visible, or
imaginable to most people. We are not aware of the war in general:
it’s underreported in the majority of UK media, and attention
passes quickly elsewhere. Nor are the historical roots of the UK’s
contemporary implication in the terrible suffering of the Yemeni
people readily apparent, a situation this exhibition seeks to challenge.
These portraits are part of a living history that is tied to our imperial
and colonial pasts, runs through the accumulation of power and
wealth that defined the British empire, and continues to fuel our
military industrial complex and the wars it feeds on. If this war ties our
neighbours in its black web, then it should be known that whoever
you are in Britain, it’s your war too.
Dan Burwood is a photographer, artist and educator based in
Balsall Heath, Birmingham. He works on documentary, fine art and
community projects in the UK and Lebanon. He is interested in
photographic commissions and collaborations, and offers analogue
and digital courses, training and project support through Darkroom
Birmingham, based here at the Old Print Works.’