Touching History

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There’s a new exhibition opening February 4 (12-4)

VA2015_Bookcase-20(1) copy copy

Touching History

Rehab Nazzal

How does it feel to be tending your ancient olive grove, on a Spring day, in the land known by its inhabitant as the “mother of all beginnings and of all endings,” when suddenly your fingers touch clay pots made some 1700 years ago? What feelings do you experience when touching items created and used by your ancestors in the 3rd century?

The objects in this exhibition were found in Palestine ten years and three wars ago, buried under the red Mediterranean soil in a family olive grove located in the northern part of the country. Only olive trees, in their tranquility in place and the passages of time, can truly tell the real story of these objects. Only the olive trees can testify as to whether these objects were buried with deceased ancestors, to serve them in the afterlife (as archeologists claim), or were buried as a result of violence of war, along with those who had made them. These objects have traces from the Roman Empire and the consequent rising and failing empires in Palestine. Their texture, color, shape and fractures are testament to the life that existed there, and to the fragility of our own existence.

As part of a personal collection, these objects defy any monetary value that is attached to such items and resist commodification. They can be smelled, touched, or just looked at. Their display in the Bookcase micro-museum can convey the connection between knowledge and living and surviving. Knowledge and food nurture the mind and the body: feeding the mind, feeding the body, these are proverbs known by all cultures.

VA2015_Bookcase-21 copy copy

photos by Jennifer Martin, 2015

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The Author

Kirsty Robertson is an Associate Professor of contemporary art and museum studies at the University of Western Ontario.

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