Exploring Musrara Childhood at Jerusalem's Naggar Art Exhibit

The historically important neighborhood of Musrara is the focus of a new exhibit, "Childhood in No Man's Land," curated by the Naggar School of Photography and supported by the Jerusalem Foundation. The exhibit, which opened on December 8, includes art in a variety of media and is housed at the Social Gallery at the Morasha Center on Shivtei Yisrael Street.


Photography, video art and mixed-media works tell the story of the Middle Eastern immigrants who populated the neighborhood from the 1950's to the 70's. In the pre-1967 era, the neighborhood bordered a wall with Jordan and local children played together in an area that did not belong to either state. Yet, the lack of belonging that many in the area felt was more than a symptom of the political realities. The institutional authorities in Israel at the time often viewed the new Middle Eastern Israelis as inferior, and children from those communities suffered discrimination and harsh conditions.


Photography from that era, including works by Yitzchak Sa'ar, highlight the scenes of poverty in stark black and white. Yet, the same photos display a kind of lighthearted fun, as well. An animated film by Naggar's head of animation Liav Tzubari tells the fascinating story of one of the leaders of Israel's Black Panthers movement, also blending humor and tragedy in equal parts. One of the most touching pieces in the exhibit is a video entitled "Father" by Meir Maman, in which the artist interviews his father, a native of the neighborhood who emigrated from Morocco and settled in the area with his family. The father recounts truly gloomy family history, but delivers his account in a matter-of-fact manner that endears him to the viewer. 


For those interested in Israel's multi-ethnic patchwork, the exhibit is ideal. It features some of Jerusalem's great 20th century local photographers and introduces contemporary artists, who add their unique spin on similar material.


The exhibit is open Sunday through Thursday from 10 am to 5 pm. For more information, call 02-628-6519.