Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Forgotten echoes of Yemen

Writing in Haaretz Na'ama Gershy reviews Zion Ozeri's photographic record of 'The last generation of Yemeni Jews': (with thanks:Lily)

"Zion Ozeri spent 20 years producing this pictorial record of the Yemenite Jewish community in Israel and Yemen. But the photographs here are not necessarily Ozeri's best work or the most beautiful. They are meant to portray the "last generation." They do not tell the story of the entire Yemenite community but only a small part of it a group that is on the verge of extinction according to the title.

What dying breed are we talking about? The introduction tries to answer this question. Ozeri documents the last vestiges of a community that can trace its roots back to the second century C.E. and has been slowly disappearing since the community immigrated to Israel and became absorbed in Israeli society. This is a generation with no successors. The offspring are so different, they cannot be considered spiritual or cultural heirs.

(...)"My grandmother does not see herself in these pictures. Maybe it has to do with the fact that she comes from a culture of words. Visual culture is foreign to her. For her a picture is not a text. It is not necessary for telling the stories she feels are important. My time and interest are what she needs. But the reason my grandmother does not see herself in these pictures goes beyond her cultural problem with the medium. She does not see herself there because they don't speak to her. They are nameless. They portray Yemeniteness without Yemenites. A Yemenite, according to my grandmother, is not a hardworking, modest, studious person with sidelocks.

He is first of all a person with a name, affiliated with a family, a clan and a city. From her point of view, there is no history and no historical memory without names. A portrait, as exquisite and complex as it may be, does not reveal anything. Without the name and the affiliation, all she can say about a picture is whether it is beautiful or ugly."

Read article in full

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