OSAKA, Japan — When I dreamed up this Jewish Africa photo survey project thing back in 2010, it seemed rather fanciful. I was grasping for something new and bold to fill a gaping hole that had suddenly opened beneath my feet. When I kicked the project off in August 2012, it seemed extremely audacious. In fact, it still does. Africa is geographically big, and everything else about it is diverse and dynamic. Now, with just over a calendar year remaining on the projected timeline I set out for myself to complete this gig, I’m not just nearly there, I’m out in front for the next stage: photo exhibitions.
On November 6, 2014, I received a rather unexpected email. A good email. A great email.
“Our museum is interested in exhibiting your photos at the end of the year 2015,” wrote the project manager of the Beit Hatfutsot Museum in Tel Aviv, Israel.
Wow. I had to rub the sleep out of my eyes to make sure I had read that correctly.
The Museum of the Jewish People (as it is called in English) is a perfect fit for my work because our missions are similar: documenting the Jewish world at large. In fact, a few years ago, I met with several members of the staff to introduce myself and my work. Before I received their offer for a show, I had reached out to my contacts to inquire about the proper procedures for submitting a formal exhibition proposal. I never imagined their reply would skip the application and leap to an offer.
But was it the right offer? I dreamed of a major show, the first one being held in Africa, and certainly not before I actually completed the photo stages of my project.
So much for dreaming.
I took a deep breath before responding. I sought the opinions of a few inner circle members in my life. The consensus was clear: “Go for it…Take this opportunity now…You don’t know what could happen between now and later.” Comments like that.
So I did go for it. So I am taking it. Deferment would be foolhardy.
An exhibition at a museum is a big deal. It’s the real deal. In the Jewish world, anyone working for a Jewish museum anywhere in the world will know the Beit Hatfutsot. It is, in my view, the single-most central Jewish museum in the world — perhaps not for its number of visitors or its rank of sophistication or even its location in Israel, but because it is inclusive of all Jews everywhere. It is not a niche museum with a particular angle on a particular theme. By its nature, the Beit Hatfutsot Museum tells the story of the Jewish people in the Diaspora. For this reason, there is no more appropriate place for my Jewish Africa photo survey project to be on display.
“Thank you very much for your most interesting and exciting email,” I wrote back. “Having my work on display at the Beit Hatfutsot Museum would be a tremendous honor and a thrill.”
My response was an understatement but it was enough to set the exhibition application ball rolling.
My recent return from a New Year trip to the US has walloped me with an unusually bad bout of body clock upheaval. I’ve turned jet lag into an instrument of good: consciousness during quiet hours with nothing to do but everything.
In just one noiseless night, I prepared ten applications (with at least that many still to do, and not only for Jewish facilities, but African museums and cultural centers too). In each, under “Forthcoming Exhibitions,” the Beit Hatfutsot Museum is listed, dangling like bait for others to nibble. I’m hoping the interest from one museum will be a hook for more.
So, Ama Juda eAfrika? You better believe it. (If you’re not sure what that’s about, stick around.)
And, oh, I need to start searching for a publisher too.
Leg #6 (of 8) of my Jewish Africa photo survey project kicks off on February 9, 2015. I will first be heading to Morocco where I will spend three weeks working mainly in the southern-central areas (I am planning to cover central-northern areas on a second visit to Morocco on leg #8). I will then head to Ethiopia for two weeks, Eritrea for four days, and Israel for the final week and a half. The last night of the journey will be spent with friends round the Seder table.
Click for JEWISH AFRICA PHOTO HIGHLIGHTS.
FURTHER INFORMATION ABOUT ME and MY JEWISH PHOTO WORK (see the following links): my website, HaChayim HaYehudim Jewish Photo Library / ABOUT / MISSION/ BIO / PUBLICATIONS, EXHIBITIONS, EVENTS / PRESS / STORE / VIDEOS / MY JEWISH GEOGRAPHY APP QUIZ GAME iTUNES STORE / FACEBOOK / TWITTER /INSTAGRAM / SUPPORT / CONTACT.
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