The Faces of Race and Memory
12 black and white photographs
Mame Lushen (›Mother Tongue/Language‹ in Yiddish)
The series of black-and-white portraits of different faces turning their profile to the viewer was first shown in the year 1988 in the context of an eponymous solo exhibition of the artist at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. The portraits show images of the artist’s family and of the family of a German acquaintance, Susanne, whom the artist got to know while living in the kibbutz. They are shown opposite of each other and the viewer is asked to classify them as ›Aryan‹ or ›Jewish‹. The first reaction of the viewers is most probably immediate aversion against this question, as no one wants to be caught in these terms of Nazi ideology, but they are also confronted with the stereotypes that are potentially still imbedded in our minds. In a way, the work reveals the potential of being a racist in every one of us—a highly uncomfortable position. Haim Maor is a second-generation Holocaust survivor artist, whose father and grandfather were imprisoned in Auschwitz-Birkenau, only his father survived: ›In the beginning they called me Haim Benjamin Moshkovitz, like the name of my grandfather, my father’s father, who was murdered in Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1942. I was his walking shadow and echo of his image. Without my knowing him, he was an inseparable tail, which trailed behind me or was laid on my shoulders.‹
The burden of being a descendent of a family of Holocaust survivors and the sense of himself being a living memorial candle has become the main topic in the artistic expression of Haim Maor, in both his visual art and his writings. In Mame Lushen, the two Yiddish words for Mother Tongue are sewn in Hebrew lettering onto a piece of cloth, which used to belong to his mother. The colors are fading in the lower part of the work, a metaphor for the vanishing language and the proceeding loss of Yiddish culture.
Haim Maor (*1951 in Jaffa), 1976 – Graduate the “Hamidrasha” Seminar for Teachers of Art and Painting, Ramat Hasharon. An Associate Professor at the Department of the Arts, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Be’er Sheva. Lives and works in Metar.