Threshold |curated by Shir Meller Yamaguchi | The Wilfrid Israel Museum of Asian Art and Studies
Meydad Eliyahu’s installation transpires on the threshold between remembrance and oblivion, striving to reinstate sanctity from the ruins. In recent years, Eliyahu has been tracing his family’s story of immigration from India along with the Jewish Cochin community in the 1950s, a story that has been silenced and repressed in the Israeli narrative. In his travels to Cochin and his visits to archives in Israel, he gathers fragments of memory to form a tangible identity.
The Jews arrived in Cochin, on the Kerala coast of India, following the ancient trade routes. They built a thriving community there, which flourished for centuries. Following the establishment of the State of Israel, most of its members decided to immigrate to Israel collectively, but in their new country they suffered humiliation and prejudice. Based on archival photographs documenting the community’s arrival in Israel, Eliyahu’s paintings hang between the ruined walls he erected and the Museum’s permanent walls, trying to find their place. The figures resemble dislocated silhouettes. Their glances surrender loneliness and yearning, as they fade into the expanses of red paint like an open wound seeking to be absorbed into the canvas.
Eliyahu’s sculptural fragments draw inspiration from architectural motifs and ritual appurtenances from Cochin, inspired by Indian culture. Covering them with red pigment, he lends them a powerful metaphysical presence. They are placed amid Eliyahu’s wall fragments, detached from tradition, screaming out their former affluence, as opposed to the frugality surrounding them now. For Eliyahu, they represent the glorious legacy left behind, which is no longer accessible to him and to the community. “Through the physical labor involved in creating these sculptures I was able to restore the absence,” he says.
The image painted on the wall at the end of the hall fuses connection to one’s roots and a new vision. The branches of the weeping willow, which belongs in the local landscape, reach the ground. Parrots are gathered among them, symbolizing the members of the Kerala Jewish community in the women’s folksongs. Some are suspended upside-down like bats; some look around, as if striving to awaken from their slumber and examine the branch on which they perch from the crown of the tree.
Shir Meller-Yamaguchi, curator