30 January 2011

Borders #3: Israel/Palestine Separation Barrier



Japanese woodblock (moku hanga)
Image size: 14" x 22" (35.5 x 56 cm)
5 shina plywood blocks
20 hand-rubbed layers
Paper: Echizen Kozo
Edition: 12
Based on a satellite view of the West Bank at Qalqiliya.

To learn more about other elements in the print:
The Star-Bellied Sneetches
The Christ Figure
David and Goliath
Abraham Expels Ishmael and His Mother
The American Indian

Jacob Wrestling the Angel after Gustave Doré

The last element I've added to this print is a woodcut reproduction of Gustav Doré's engraving of Jacob wrestling the angel. The story is told in Genesis 32:22-30. Jacob is alone in the desert at night when a stranger begins to wrestle him. They struggle all night and then the story continues:
The man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”

But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

The man asked him, “What is your name?”

“Jacob,” he answered.

Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”

Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.”

But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.

So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”

Jacob is Abraham's grandson, son of Isaac, and in this passage Jacob becomes Israel. "Israel" literally means one who has wrestled with God.

The carving on shina plywood.

I love this image for so many reasons. First, I love the idea of wrestling with God. My own personal relationship with God has involved a whole lot of wrestling, so I'm happy to know that I'm following a tradition. And I love what Jacob says to the angel. "I will not let you go until you bless me." Amazing chutzpah, to demand a blessing from God. I like that. And I love the sense that the angel is hardly struggling, that the angel is letting Jacob win like a parent allows a child to win sometimes. All of the struggling is really being done by the man, not the angel.

In any peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians, one of Israel's main conditions is the demand that Israel's right to exist be recognized.  Which is kind of a demand to be blessed, so I like this image for that. But there's another side to any demand for a blessing. When we struggle with our hardships, with our challenges, if we stay in the struggle long enough and refuse to let go, it is possible to discover the blessing that lies within the hardship. So I see this image as calling for a struggle with our higher natures. Which I guess is what I want to hope for. I want to believe that at some point one of the parties will have enough sense or incentive to step out of the stranglehold they have each other in and see that nobody can win.

Salman Rushdie wrote, "There comes a point in the unfurling of communal violence in which it becomes irrelevant to ask, 'Who started it?' The lethal conjugations of death part company with any possibility of justification, let alone justice... Both their houses are damned by their deeds; both sides sacrifice the right to any shred of virtue; they are each other's plagues."

They are each other's plagues. Their fates are completely intertwined. Whether Israel and Palestine become two states or one state, they can't escape each other. They are one people with one problem. Maybe they can become each other's angels. Maybe they can squeeze a blessing out of their struggle. That's what I hope for Israel and Palestine.



Unknown said...

Annie: This image, and your commentary about it, so beautifully and evocatively wrought. Thank you.

Celia Hart said...

You must have learnt so much about rendering light and shade and textiles, by reproducing the Doré engraving.


Annie B said...

Celia, you are so right. What I mostly learned is how hard it is!

itsuko K said...

Needless to say that the finished print is beautiful, but the woodblock (shina plywood) you carved are also an artwork. Amazing!

Ellen said...

Annie, I just read through your last few posts - what a magnificent work this is, not only technically masterful and gorgeous, which it is, but also the teaching elements you bring to it, the history, biblical references, even Dr. Seuss! I enjoyed every step of the way. Thanks for generously sharing it all.

Terry Sargent Peart said...

Annie, this print is absolutely amazing. There is a lot to ponder. Your reproduction of the engraving is astounding.

Annie B said...

Thanks so much, everyone. I appreciate your feedback.

betsy best-spadaro said...

annie, this is a beautiful piece, i love it!

Steve Emery said...

Beautiful print, and a beautiful, thoughtful post, as always. The heart and thought that goes into your work gives each piece a balance and depth that deserves the loving treatment of this ancient traditional art.

And I have to believe that people see these pieces, encounter your words, and are changed. Their view of the conflicts and tensions is broadened, and with that wider vision their hearts can perhaps see a different way forward, a more humane way to consider the problems and the peoples caught up in them.

Is there a more important outcome for art?

AJBloggeroni said...

Hey Annie, I love this print, especially the Jacob and Angel recreation! I was curious what the Italian flag is doing in there?

Annie B said...

Hi AJBloggerini. Glad you like the print. Red white and green are also the colors on the Iranian flag.

AJBloggeroni said...

It's the Iranian flag just without the Emblem though. Ok- sorry, I'm very curious!- how does the Iranian flag relate in the print? (I may have missed this if it was in one of the writeups!)

Annie B said...

I'm no expert on the situation, but it seems to me that Iran's relationships with both Israel and Palestine play into the power struggles. Iran doesn't recognize the legitimacy of Israel as a state and regards Palestine as occupied territory. Iran is also close (?) to being the only other nuclear power in the Middle East, and Israel accuses Iran of supporting and arming Hamas. This hostile relationship hangs over the situation between Israel and Palestine, so I decided to dangle a suggestion of the Iranian flag at the top (north) of the map just to 'mention' Iran.