The Universe Appears to Dance
Valley Beth Shalom, Encino
February 6 - April 18, 2017
Joyce Dallal (Iraq), Asher Levy (Syria), Soraya Sarah Nazarian (Iran), Avi Roth (Greece), Lidia Shaddow (Iraq & Tunisia)
The title of this exhibition, The Universe Appears to Dance, is drawn from a poem by the medieval Sephardic poet, Samuel ha-Nagid (993-1055 CE). Samuel was the vizier to the ruler of Granada. He was a learned rabbi and one of the most influential Jews of his era. His life perfectly captures the Jewish experience in Spain’s Golden Age - a time of celebration, music, culture, and life. It would still be centuries before that world would be shattered.
The Sephardic story is one of resilience. The edict of expulsion in 1492 scattered one-hundred thousand Spanish Jews across the globe. These Jews became the ancestors of the Moroccan, Algerian, Tunisian, Libyan, Greek, Turkish, Bulgarian, Serbian, and Bosnian communities. Eventually, many would make it to the Americas – including to a fledgling new country -- the United States of America.
In all these communities the memories of homes left behind, in the distant and not-so-distant past, and the longing to return continues to shape the Sephardic and Mizrahi experience.
The current generation of artists and performers maintain the splendor of their families’ rich cultural legacy. Their art is filled with the Islamic influenced patterning, ornate Arabic, Ladino, and Hebrew lettering and seem to even capture the fragrances of the Middle East.
This exhibit coincides with the launch of a new Friday night prayer service focusing on Sephardic and Mizrahi melodies that will commence in March. In mounting this exhibition, VBS celebrates the unique experience of the Sephardic and Mizrahi families of our community.
While their stories are diverse, the artists in this exhibition share a connection, respect, and love for their past as well as a fierce desire to engage in the contemporary world. Their artwork is a vehicle for making sense of these diverse experiences and is a reminder to celebrate, to create, and to dance!