ABSENTEE LANDSCAPES & BAWADI TOURIST INFORMATION OFFICE, AT The Hive, California
Participating artists:Sala-Manca Group, Itamar Mendes-Flohr, Yishaiau Rabinowitz, Ktura Manor, Chen Cohen, Hagar Goren, Nir Yahalom,
In the lead-up to the 2014 Sukkot holiday, the Sala-Manca Group, directors of the Mamuta Art and Media Center at Hansen House, decided to create a public sukkah on the Hansen grounds, a temporary dwelling for its activities during the holiday. Rather than construct an extravagant or innovatively designed sukkah, Sala-Manca and Mamuta’s artists in residence chose to delve into the sukkah’s charged meaning in the Israeli context and to highlight the temporary nature of the structure and its associations with exile – thus evoking associations not only with Jewish history but also with the modern Israeli context, and proposing a contemporary reading of the sukkah, both as a concrete object and as a symbol.
A structure from the Jahalin Bedouin community on the Jerusalem-Jericho Road is purchased, dismantled, and reassembled in the Hansen House garden
Participating artists: Sala-Manca Group,Yishaiau Rabinowitz, Itamar Mendes-Flohr, Hagar Goren, Ktura Manor, Chen Cohen, Nir Yahalom,
As part of the Mamuta’s Underground Academy (as its residency program is called), the artists in residence went on an ethnographic expedition into the Judean Desert outside of Jerusalem (the area of the Jerusalem-Jericho Road) to meet members of the Jahalin Bedouin tribe, who live a life of exile to this day. The Jahalin first became refugees in 1949 when they were expelled from their lands in the Negev desert. They migrated to the region of the Judean Desert, where transience continues to be a part of their daily lives. The artists met members of one of the families and listened to their stories. They then proposed to purchase a structure from them, with the idea of dismantling it and reassembling it in the garden of the Hansen House and thus transplanting a piece of one reality within another one.
Not only is the sukkah structure itself transplanted to the center of Jerusalem, but with it a different story of exile and desert-dwelling. The adopted sukkah proposes a re – reading of Jewish history, an observation of the state of exile, a search for a new ethnic-national-social space, a pursuit of freedom, and an exposure to the diversity of Israeli reality and the paradoxes of history. Activities related to these subjects will be held throughout the holiday
Deller Sukkah Documentation
In the winter of 2017, a group of artists (the SalaManca Group, Nir Yahalom, Ktura Manor and Max Epstein) began building an unauthorized but accurate replica of a painted wooden sukkah from Germany (dating to 1850), which is on display in the permanent collection of the Israel Museum and is known as The Deller Sukkah.
The artists photographed the original sukkah at the museum, read articles about it, and even traveled to Fischach—a small town in Bavaria—where the original sukkah had been built and subsequently, with the outbreak of World War II, smuggled to Palestine to save it from the Nazis. At Fischach, some of the artists met with the local mayor, visited the graves of the Deller family members (owners of the original sukkah), toured the local synagogue (which now serves as a dental clinic), and documented at all on video.
At the same time, back in Jerusalem, the artists Adi Kaplan and Shahar Carmel created replicas of postcards from the town from 1920 (circa), and, in the bowels of the basement of the old leper colony building in Jerusalem, reconstructed one of the most beautiful sukkot in the world. The replica is a perfect copy of the original, but for a few deliberate differences between it and the original—some substantive and some symbolic.
As a consequence of the replication process, the paintings on the walls of the sukkah subtly transformed: the image of Jerusalem on one of the walls, which in the original was an object of yearning, became a kind of proprietary statement; the scenes of the pastoral German village on the three other walls, which used to provided a kind of visual record of the original landscape, became a wistful memorial of a community and a time that no longer exist. Other changes that were made to the replica effectively rendered it a new original: while the sukkah at the Museum is an ethnographic object that can be viewed but not entered, its replica, as created by contemporary artists, is an artwork into which entry is not only allowed, but encouraged, and can even serve as a bona fide sukkah.
The paintings themselves have also undergone small but significant changes: in them, the walls of the synagogue feature graffiti inscriptions that attest to its transformation into a clinic, and the house of the Deller family (the former owners of the sukkah) now bears the names of the two families who live in it today—one German, the other Turkish.
The replica sukkah is on display at the Absent Landscapes exhibition at Hansen House in Jerusalem (the former leper colony/hospital). The exhibition also features a film titled Eternal Sukkah—a past project by the group—which tells the story of how a hybrid Bedouin/Jewish sukkah became an exhibit at the Israel Museum in 2015, heralding the idea of transporting a sukkah from the museum into real life. A complex dialogue takes place between the Bedouin/Jewish “Eternal Sukkah” and the physical, metaphorical, and historical composite that is the “Deller Sukkah” at the Absent Landscapes exhibition. It is a dialogue between a nomadism and ownership; between enforced transience and transience as a religious value; between absentee landscapes and present ones; and between individual artistic endeavors of different historical periods, each of which, in its ownway, exemplifies the drama of its time.
Inaugurated in 2012 , BAWADI is a Bedouin driven eco-tourism initiative offering guided hikes along the ancient shepherding routes of the West Bank, Palestine, often known only to the Bedouin. In addition to guiding visitors on half day and full day desert walks of all levels, Bawadi offers traditional Bedouin lunches, dinners and overnights under the stars in local communities. As the culture of nature tourism steadily takes root in Palestine, BAWADI guides are the first Bedouin in the West Bank to be certified by the Palestinian Ministry for Tourism and Antiquities. BAWADI ROOTS: Sharing the little explored and spectacular landscapes, flora and fauna of Palestine’s deserts with visitors is a celebration of the Bedouin’s living heritage. Through Bawadi – which began as a youth focused income generation initiative supported by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency- Bedouin youth build on their inherent skills, continue their traditional journeys through Palestine and give voice to their story. Inviting guests to experience the song, the story and the silence of the desert, BAWADI is both a vehicle for advocacy and for income generation for Bedouin youth wishing to safeguard and promote their distinct culture and traditions. Tea-stops and overnights in Bedouin communities along the Bawadi trails support the Bawadi drive for economic empowerment of isolated communities. THE BAWADI VISION: Bawadi is currently guiding weekly desert walks in the Jerusalem and Jericho areas and aims to develop its capacity throughout 2015, ultimately incorporating Bedouin from all 5 tribes in the West Bank into desert focused eco-tourism initiatives in Palestine, including hiking, jeep and camel tours, community project work and desert skills training. With strong existing ties to Bedouin communities in Wadi Rum, Sinai and the Negev, Bawadi’s vision is to inspire a network of Bedouin led eco-tourism initiatives throughout the region, in celebration of the deserts and their people.