(TEANECK, NJ) -- On Sunday, August 9, the Puffin Foundation hosts "Through Others Eyes", an inspirational photographic exhibition named after a unique project of the same name under the auspices of Givat Haviva, a non-profit educational institute in Israel. With support from the Puffin Foundation, "Through Others' Eyes" seeks to address the need for open channels of communication between Israeli Arab and Jewish youth who rarely, if ever, have an opportunity to meet one another. They visit each other’s homes and communities under the guidance of an Arab and a Jewish facilitator and use photography as the basis for exploring questions of identity and co-existence. Every year the Through Others’ Eyes program brings a unique perspective and individuality to the group, and this year is no exception. This 2015 TOE year is focused on a four elements theme, addressing the role of earth, air, fire and water in Israeli Shared Society.
he 2015 Through Others’ Eyes group is made up of 24 Arab and Jewish youth from the Wadi Ara region. These young people meet at a weekly arts workshop at Givat Haviva, and over the course of this program the participants become acquainted with each other on a personal and cultural level. The meetings include studies of photography, encounters in their homes, and an instructional process that combines collaborative creation with an encounter between different identities. Through Others’ Eyes groups have been active for fifteen years, and each year a refreshing reciprocal and fascinating meeting point is created among the group members, and every year new artwork is created.
The exhibit presented to you includes two bodies of work. The first is a collection of photographs from the visits to the participants’ homes. In these photographs the participants photographed visual elements in the different houses; family members, food, possessions, rooms. Through the photography they observed what was different and what was similar, how the cultures differ and how they influence each other.
The second body of work deals with the creative process that the group’s members chose to photograph, as enriched by the ancient concept of the four elements that constitute the world. The four elements are a pre-scientific precursor to the explanation of the structure of matter and the basic processes acting in the world, which was invented in ancient Greece by the philosopher Empedocles around 500 BCE, and was adopted by Aristotle. The philosophy was disproved by new scientific theories but it still has an influence on our spiritual and ecological ideas and represents a universalist perspective. The members of Through Others’ Eyes chose to use the four elements: air, earth, fire, and water, as a source of inspiration for viewing what is occurring in the Israeli – Palestinian conflict in general and within the group specifically. The creative and thought process took place over the course of the meetings, the subjects of the photographs are the group members.
As an artistic creation the photographs do not represent a unified truth, or a “solution”, to the conflict. They are rather taking a look at the important fundamentals of all of our lives in a new way. The artistic – photographic act allows one to go outside the recognizable clichés of the conflict and affords the creator and the viewer a new way of seeing reality Through Others’ Eyes.
The group was divided into four subgroups. The water group used symbols of Islam and Judaism, which are glittering, and being washed by the water, glowing and formed anew. The girls’ games scattered in the water symbolize innocence and dreams which were washed up or leapt out of the large sea. The earth group represents both the struggle and the possibility of cooperation on the same piece of land. The fire group relates to fire as an origin, which is able to consume us, but also as an energetic power that can ignite new ideas. The air group created an amorphous body moving with a free spirit made up of the colors of both flags, Israeli and Palestinian (blue, white, red, black, and green).
Free and open to the public. Sunday, August 9, 4:00 p.m. The Puffin Cultural Forum is at 20 Puffin Way (off Teaneck Rd.) in Teaneck. Call 201-836-3499 or visit www.puffinculturalforum.org.
THE GIVAT HAVIVA INSTITUTE, founded in 1949, has been at the forefront of educating for equality and mutual dialogue and understanding between Arabs and Jews through formal and informal programs, with the goal of creating a shared future and society in Israel. Every year, 20,000 Israeli Jews and Arabs and thousands more youth and adults from different countries participate in the institute’s courses, lectures, seminars and tours of the region. Givat Haviva’s flagship program, Shared Communities, pairs neighboring Arab village, Kfar Qara, with Pardes Hanna-Karkur, a Jewish town, for joint programs with youth, women, and elderly, to bridge divides and increase communication and interaction across three generations of residents.
THE PUFFIN FOUNDATION seeks to open the doors of artistic expression by providing grants to artists and art organization who are often excluded from mainstream opportunities due to their race, gender, or social philosophy. The Puffin Foundation's grant search provides funds to hundred of artists annually and partners with other organizations and institutions on special projects to encourage the Arts and Activism. The Puffin Foundation also runs the Puffin Cultural Forum, a dynamic arts, discussion and performance space in Teaneck, NJ.
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