Israeli and Palestinian artists have joined forces:
One bowl serves many
Rachel Shabi *
Tel-Aviv - Israeli and Palestinian artists have joined forces to send a
message of reconciliation. Their exhibition, which opened on Saturday, drew
more than 2,500 people to at the Museum of Israeli Art, Ramat Gan, in
suburban Tel Aviv.
‘Offering Reconciliation’ showcases the work of more than 130 Israeli and
Palestinian artists, who took part in the project for the Bereaved Families
Forum for Peace, Reconciliation and Tolerance. The group hopes to spread its
message to a wider audience through art.
"To reach a different people, you need different mediums," says Aziz Abu
Sarah, one of the forum directors. "Even people who disagree with our
message were able to come to the exhibition and see what we are doing."
The exhibition features artists such as Menashe Kadishman, Dani Karavan and
Mohammad Said Kalash alongside emerging talents.
Each artist was given an identical ceramic bowl from which to create their
"The bowl is connected with the basic gesture of feeding, or giving," says
Dafna Zmora, one of the exhibition curators. "It is something that contains
– a message or an idea." Some artists smashed the bowl and presented a work
from its pieces. Others built sculptures with the bowl as a base or used the
bowl as a canvas for paintings.
"They each took the commission in a personal direction, each with their own
interpretation of the reconciliation narrative and the elements that derive
from it – co-existence, pain and loss, fracture and unity," says Orna Tamir
Shastovitz, who led the initiative.
"Each one of the artists is presenting a special bowl of reconciliation, a
bowl of peace and hope, of art instead of animosity."
Aliza Olmert, wife of the Israeli prime minister, contributed to the show.
Her plate is painted black, with the Hebrew words: "Jews do not evict Arabs
do not evict Jews do not evict..." in a continuous loop covering the bowl.
Dalia Riesel, an Israeli artist, sculpted a pair of human hands emerging
from coiled rope onto a blood-red bowl. The hands are trying to grasp olive
leaves, the symbol of peace, which are scattered on the plate."The piece is
a woman's womb, covered with rope, with the hands emerging and trying to
reach the olive leaves," says Riesel. "The leaves are just out of reach, but
hopefully the hands will get there one day."
Jalal Kamel depicts a Palestinian man chiseling the word "peace" in three
languages on to a large stone. The stone is intended as a symbol of
Palestine – representing its buildings and its famous export, Kamel says.
"The message is very clear. The man is writing peace on the stone, a solid
thing in the ground that nobody can take out – no force, no state can remove
it," the Bethlehem artist says.
Kamel was one of the many Palestinian artists who could not attend the
exhibition. He was not granted a permit to enter Israel. Abu Sarah says only
about 20 Palestinians attended the opening."That's the sad part," he says.
"The government claims to want a peaceful solution, and then fights the
peaceful attempts of people such as ourselves."
The organisers plan to take the exhibition on tour, in Israel and Palestine
and then overseas.
The original idea had been to auction the pieces to raise funds for the
project – taking reconciliation workshops into Israeli and Palestinian
schools. However, James Wolfensohn, who stepped down recently as the special
envoy to the Quartet to the Middle East, donated money to the forum so the
works could remain together.
The bereaved families forum started in 1994 and is made up of hundreds of
Israelis and Palestinians who have lost loved ones in the conflict. The
forum has organised study days and seminars for adults and dialogue meetings
and summer camps for children.
Just after the start of the second intifada, the group took 1,200 fake
coffins bearing Israeli and Palestinian flags to the UN office in New York.
"We wanted to show that people dying is not just a number," says Abu Sarah.
At the opening of this latest show - which, according to the museum drew one
of its largest attendance figures - visitors crowded to see the display of
bowls, often lingering over a particular piece. "When I heard that there are
people who were willing to sit and speak and work together, I had to come
and see their exhibition," says Sarah Breitberg-Semel, a curator and
lecturer from Tel Aviv. "It is so much the opposite of what is happening on
a political level. I can't tell you how much of a strong impact that has on
* Rachel Shabi is the Tel-Aviv correspondent for Aljazeera.
Source: Al Jazeera, May 16, 2006.
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