By Tadias Staff
Published: Thursday, June 26, 2008
New York (TADIAS) – The final event of the Ethiopian Millennium Celebration Series hosted by the Beta Israel of North America foundation will include a presentation of photography by Ethiopian and American photographers at the State Building in Harlem, NY, Friday night. The photographs presented in this exhibition were taken by five professional photographers, each devoted to documenting and representing Ethiopian culture in Ethiopia, Israel, and the United States. The photographs represent a wide spectrum of artistic styles and subjects.
Photographer Joan Roth spent several months in Ethiopia documenting rural Jewish life. Most of her photographs were taken prior to the last wave of migrations of Ethiopian Jews to Israel. The landscapes and texture of the country are represented by the works of Andargé Asfaw, and Ayda Girma contextualizes and compliment Roth’s work with strong and sweeping scenes of nature. Yeganyahu Avishai Mekonen’s photographs span the Ethiopian Jewish experience in Israel while the works of New York Times Staff Photographer Chester Higgins captures the spiritual legacy of Ethiopia.
Jill Vexler, who specializes in curating exhibitions about cultural identity and social history, prepared this exhibition series. Vexler has traveled to Ethiopia twice, where deep friendships and a love of the culture were forged through her work with children’s arts programs and through recently adopting a six year old girl, Tibarek.
Speaking about how she got involved in curating the Ethiopian Millennium Celebration Series, Vexler recounted her meeting with Beejhy Barhani, Executive Director of BINA foundation.
“The moment I met Beejhy at BINA, I knew I wanted to be involved with this organization” she says. “As an ‘honorary Ethiopian’ through my adopted Ethiopian daughter, Tibarek, I knew I needed to learn more, make new friends, open doors in our lives and create a huge world of connections and meaning for Tibarek. I wanted to learn more about Ethiopian Jewish customs, too, in order to incorporate them into the type of Jewish family Tibarek and I would create. And I just really liked Beejhy, her instant warmth and generosity.”
So, when Beejhy and Vexler began to talk about an exhibition as part of the Millennium events, Vexler offered to curate the exhibition. “Since I have worked as a curator for many years, I thought it would be just one way that I could contribute something to the organization and help its work and name become more widely known” Vexler said.
Vexler gives credit to Beejhy as co-curator “since it is she who knew so many more photographers than I” she adds. “Each one has a different perspective and together, in a clean and direct way, the exhibition shows vignettes of Ethiopia – landscape, people, architecture, adults, children, Jews, Christians and snippets of life.”
The exhibition catches the ancient spiritual traditions of Ethiopians, showing the colorful tapestry of faith in everyday life. “If in this type of exhibition, just one image catches your eye, draws you in to seeing something new, something different, something beautiful, then we have done our job” Vexler says. “It isn’t supposed to be an exhaustive ethnographic study of Ethiopia. That’s another show! Rather, it is an exhibition of now, today, Ethiopia at the Millennium, a place of energy, beauty, contrasts and endless fascination.”
Friday, June 27, 2008. Photo Exhibition (Ethiopia: A View at the Millennium). From 6:00PM- 9:00PM at the 2nd floor Art Gallery at The Adam Clayton Jr. State Building (Harlem State Building), 63 West 125th St (Harlem, New York). Admission is free. Learn more about the show at binaf.org