A Conversation with Marjorie Ransom

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Many Yemenis feel that their country has been reduced to terrorism. However, many of those who have visited Yemen know that the country has a lot more to offer. At the tip of the Arabian Peninsula, Yemen is one of the few countries that had a culture prior to Islam. Although it is not as prevalent as it used to be, one of the traditions that have survived is the production of unique silver jewelry.

Today's guest, Ms. Marjorie Ransom, lived the life of a diplomat, traveling for years throughout the Middle East; settling twice in Yemen. Ms. Ransom and her late husband began collecting Yemeni Jewelry and in turn started displaying some pieces in American Museums, like the Bead Museum (DC), Jefferson County Historical Society (NY), Gibson Gallery of the State University (NY), and the Arab American National Museum (MI) (to view the latest exhibit, click here). Jewelry is not just a product of a decorative tradition but it is a historic art that captures the essence of Yemen.

In 2003, Ms. Marjorie Ransom decided to apply for a grant travel throughout Yemen to document this tradition. In October of 2013, the first comprehensive book on Yemen's tradition of silver-smithing will be available through the American University of Cairo Press. This effort is the first of its kind. 

In this interview, Ms. Ransom identifies some types and symbols of Yemeni jewelry. Ms. Ransom also brought several silver-smiths to the US whenever she hosted a Jewelry exhibit. She understands that this trade is becoming less common in Yemen and is one of the few people supporting its revival.