One bowl serves many

Israeli and Palestinian artists have joined forces to send a message of reconciliation.

    Work by Osama Zatar. The organisers hope to tour the show

    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.

    One bowl

    Each artist was given an identical ceramic bowl from which to create their work.

    Work by Mohammad Said Kalash

    "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.

    A work by Dalia Reisel

    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."

    Political message 

    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.

    A work by Kamel Jalal who was
    stopped from reaching the show

    "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." 

    Future moves

    The organisers plan to take the exhibition on tour, in Israel and Palestine and then overseas.

    Work by Dani Karavan

    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 me."

    Photos by Ilan Amichai

    SOURCE: Aljazeera



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