New acquisition: The Fragmented TaLIT by Joseph Semah  1 November 2012

To mark the launch of the Jewish Cultural Quarter

Joseph Semah, The fragmented TaLIT, 1990. Black oil paint and white thread on paper, 14 parts; framed in 14 frames, 53 x 68 cm each.On 23 October 2012, His Royal Highness the Prince of Orange attended the celebration of the Jewish Historical Museum's eightieth anniversary and the launch of the Jewish Cultural Quarter. The Prince revealed the artwork The Fragmented TaLIT by Joseph Semah, purchased by the Jewish Historical Museum. The new acquisition is made possible with the support of the BankGiro Lottery and the Prof. dr. Herman Musaph Fonds.

Joseph Semah (b. 1948 in Baghdad) has lived in Amsterdam since 1980 and regularly exhibits his art works and installations in the Netherlands and elsewhere. Semah's work makes an appeal to us all always to investigate what may be present, explicitly or implicitly, in texts and images. The sites of the Jewish Cultural Quarter do the same thing, each in its own way, serving as a source of inspiration for young and old, for Jews and non-Jews, and for visitors from Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and all over the world.

The Fragmented TaLIT, 1999
The black bands in The Fragmented TaLIT echo the bands on the tallit (prayer shawl) worn by observant Jews during morning prayers. The white thread refers to the tzitzit, the knotted fringes at the four corners of the shawl. The tzitzit relate to the 613 commandments of Judaism, conveying the message that 'seeing leads to remembering; remembering leads to doing' (the Jewish Historical Museum's motto). The ritual fringes remind Jews of what they have to do in life to bring about a better world.

The fourteen parts of the installation The Fragmented TaLIT by visual artist Joseph Semah allude to the fourteen parts of the ritual celebration of Pesach (Passover), the Seder feast with its stories and songs. Pesach commemorates the exodus from Egypt. Its theme is the path from slavery to liberation. The liberation of the Jewish people from the Egypt of the biblical pharaoh prefigures the universal freedom of all humanity.

The Fragmented TaLIT is now on display in the Resource Centre in the Jewish Historical Museum.

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