Diverse Reactions to the
"Morocco" show at the
Members and friends of Ivri-NASAWI reveal a spectrum of opinion (posted in the order received).
Your reactions will be posted continuously throughout the months of October and November, 2000.
The Moroccan exhibit at the Jewish Museum in New York was very disappointing as Habiba and Dalia's perceptive and thoughtful review clearly indicates. I was first struck by the fact that the exhibit substitutes visual beauty for explanation. Nowhere is there much explanation of the use and context of the ritual and ordinary objects on display. What did they mean? How were they used? Can we decode the symbols? What were the films about --evocative, to be sure, but no help in understanding the country or its cultures.
It is also clear, as the review points
out, that visitors who know nothing of Morocco will come away
with their Orientalist prejudices firmly and fully supported--not only
by the inclusion but placement of the Delacroix
I also thought that the explanation for the exodus of the Jews and the role of the Moroccan government in saving the Jews should have been presented at the beginning -- rather than the end of the show. But the principal criticism, as the review points out, is the perspective which freezes the people in a kind of mythic anthropological pasts and presents them from an Orientalist perspective.
We need to understand how and why cultures change even as they persist; how people transform themselves in new circumstances; what remains and why and this kind of exhibit while pleasant enough to eye really misses the point.
Thanks, Habiba, and Dalia, for your knowledgable and sensitive review.....
Gloria Levitas, Ph.D., retired Anthropologist from Queens college
When I met with curator Vivian Mann early
in 1999, in Los Angeles, I conveyed my concern that the exhibit on Moroccan
Jews work to show our culture in its proper context; that is, with both
the traditional and intellectual aspects intact. My fear was that if American
Jews, who already possess an Orientalist perspective about the Middle East
and about the Jews of Arab/Muslim lands in particular, were to go through
a show and see little else but Jews in djellabahs, hamsas and other ornamental
objects, that we would be exoticized. Dr. Mann assured me that she was
working with some of the finest experts available, including Daniel Schroeter
and Moshe Idel, and that the exhibit and the exhibition catalogue would
be an accurate depiction of Moroccan Jewish life up till recent times.
I have not yet seen the show, but based on the images the museum is releasing
and the feedback I've received, Moroccan Jews are not experienced in the
full range of their expression. To complement this show and correct what
it lacks (very little in the way of commentary on contemporary Moroccan
Jewish writing, philosophy or fine art, for example), we have organized
two supplemental events which are in part publicized by the Jewish Museum,
to its credit. The first, on Oct. 17 (see Calendar)
features Ammiel Alcalay with a talk at the King Juan Carlos Center at NYU,
the second, on Nov. 12, features three scholars on Morocco, Gil Anidjar,
Alegria Bendelac and Habiba Boumlik. Stay tuned.
Jordan Elgrably, writer, Los Angeles
* * *
The opinions expressed do not reflect any official position taken by Ivri-NASAWI and are the sole responsibility of their signers. To communicate with a signer, address your letter to
[home] [org] [news] [calendar] [membership] [links] [open tent] [past] [nslc] [poetry]