Monday, March 29, 2010

A visit to the Museum on the Seam

Last week, I went to the Museum on the Seam, an incredible socio-political contemporary art museum on the line (the seam) between West and East Jerusalem. It is definitely worth a visit whenever you are in Jerusalem. The current exhibit, HomeLessHome, showed different artists' understandings of what home is, and how home as a concept is impacted by governments and individuals. The museum does not only focus on how these issues play out locally (although the exhibit included work by Israeli and Palestinian artists from a variety of political perspectives, including the pain of the evacuation and destruction of Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip, and the pain caused by home demolitions in Palestinian villages).

One piece that I was particularly struck by, both by the artwork itself and the accompanying description and quote in the exhibit guide, was on the roof of the museum, from which one can see neighborhoods of both West and East Jerusalem, as well as the Old City. The sculpture, by the Israeli artist Philip Rantzer, had four iron cages placed inside each other. The artist shared an excerpt from Nelson Mandela's autobiography, that really struck me in this time right before Pesach:

It was during those long and lonely years that the hunger for the freedom of my own people became the hunger for the freedom for all people, white and black.  I knew as well as I know anything that the oppressor must be liberated just as surely as the oppressed.  A man who takes away another man's freedom is a prisoner of hatred, he is locked behind the bars of prejudice and narrow-mindedness.  I am not truly free if I am taking away someone else's freedom, just as surely as I am not free when my freedom is taken from me.  The oppressed and the oppressor alike are robbed of their humanity.  
When I walked out of prison that was my mission, to liberate the oppressed and the oppressor both.  Some say that now has been achieved.  But I know that that is not the case.  The truth is that we are not yet free; we have merely achieved the freedom to be free, the right not to be oppressed.  We have not taken the final step of our journey, but the first step on a longer and even more difficult road.  For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.  The true test of our devotion to freedom is just beginning.
I hope everyone has a happy and meaningful holiday, to those who are celebrating! It is very exciting to be here, in Jerusalem, for Pesach, when a year ago I was saying "לשנה הבאה בירושלים - to next year in Jerusalem!" Chag Pesach sameach!

No comments:

Post a Comment