«Jewish Observer»
June 2002
5762 Tammuz

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None of the CIS peoples seems to have avoided a rise of national awareness. Jews, like all others, begin now revealing their national identity. Long ago emancipated Jews used to voluntarily become part of the culture of surrounding peoples, and in the sphere of fine arts they got assimilated particularly swiftly. Having destroyed the closure of a "ghetto", Jews rushed to master a new culture adopting a European style of life, many of them becoming famous sculptors, painters, draughtsmen. When in recent years there again emerged a necessity in national art, painters found themselves in a rather difficult situation - they had no support in their desire to create "Jewish" art. During many decades the national was so thoroughly knocked out of minds and souls, that only a few could "derive" a Jewish theme from themselves. At this point addressing oneself to Jewish decorative applied art greatly eased the way to national sources.

May 24 - 26, 2002 the gallery "NEF", located in Kiev Pechersk preserves, hosted an international festival of decorative applied art "Golden Stork". Its organizers were society "Jewish heritage", main department of culture and arts of Kiev state city administration, Jewish community center "Mishpaha", Open forum of Jewish education workers "Etrog" (Ukraine), gallery "NEF" of National Kiev Pechersk preserve supported by American Jewish distribution committee "Joint".

I quote an excerpt from the festival press-release: "Studying Jewish trades, Jewish folk and ceremonial art, creative search in the sphere of modern Jewish decorate applied art (which basis has always been and will always be our great tradition) are, undoubtedly, important components of the process of Jewish Renaissance. Joy of artistic creation attended by cognition of a majestic world of Jewish tradition, of an enormous heritage of traditional Jewish art attracts lots of people to this process".

Artists from many towns of Ukraine, Russia, Belarus took part in the exhibition. Considering a big number of works of most diverse technique, the exposition was well arranged. This is not an easy task to represent a painter's work for it not to get lost among others. The exposition exhibited ceramics and weaving, batique and jewelry, aperture Jewish pictures and applications, works of author's technique. Professional level was also rather diverse. But hand-made things, in any case, radiate warmth, convey a laid-within impulse to spectators. I don't want to offend any of the participants by critical remarks.

The festival is an evidence of a rise of a new, conforming to reality Jewish decorative applied art based on what is preserved from the past Jewish life.

For example, such form of decorative applied art of Jews in Eastern Europe as aperture pictures differed in its essence from the same Polish or Ukrainian ones. Aesthetic feelings in the Jewish tradition were inseparable form religious. Cutting out of paper was, as a rule, man's occupation. Pupils of religious schools did that chiefly in-between learning sacred books. Thus, the work on a picture was, in a sense, a way of interpreting a sacral text. I tend to believe contemporary authors work with Jewish symbols quite consciously, too. Nonetheless, even if some exhibits were thorough copies of long existing models, there is no doubt such activity has the right to existence.

Martin Buber told the following Hassid parable about a stork, "Talmud says a stork in Hebrew, holy language, is called 'hasida', i.e. pious and affectionate, for he loves his female friend and nestlings. Why then is he ascribed to dirty birds in Holy Scripture? Because he grants his love only to his kin". Let's hope the "Golden stork" is different and will bestow his love and disposition upon many.

We express our gratitude to the organizers of First festival and await another one.


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© 2002 Jewish Confederation of Ukraine - www.jewukr.org
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