Now it’s more important than ever to stand against violence and terrorism – all recent terror attacks in France, Germany, Turkey, Iraq as well as the previous history of attacks and battles in Israel and the Middle East at large call for a different, alternative approach to solving political issues.
Educating about art, culture, diversity and history of the Middle East countries will help set up a conversation. But first, let’s set up a dinner table – a traditional intercultural centerpiece, an object to literally gather around, a place to start talking.
In Eastern and Western cultures, staying in the kitchen used to be a common role for women for centuries, but not any more. Two female artists, Hadieh Afshani (Iran) and Shirley Siegal (Israel), decided to break several common rules at once when they came up with the idea to complete an art project together. They have been creating an installation titled “The First Supper” which is an allusion to the Biblical last supper. All objects at this metaphorical dinner party are artworks created by Afshani (currently residing in the USA) and Siegal (living in Israel), who have been working simultaneously on two continents, painting the objects to set up their dinner table: plates, mugs, silverware. The number of each series of objects on the table is symbolic – it is 7. Based on an ancient, historically cultivated assumption, seven is the number of completeness and perfection, both physical and spiritual. In reference to the Bible, number 7 is the foundation of God’s word.
All paintings for “The First Supper” carry a meaning: some artworks are portraits of women whose lives were ruined by wars and murders, others are paintings of beautiful architectural masterpieces some of which were destroyed by ISIS or Taliban.
Inspired by Judy Chicago’s feminist artworks, “The First Supper” has a different meaning: it is about inviting people regardless of their gender to talk about social and political issues without fighting for the championship. Two female artists call for women’s voices to be heard, and they lead this movement in the most natural, even quiet, way, – they create and foster a safe place for people to talk about the most vulnerable and important issues.
Collaboration of these two Middle-Eastern artists from Iran and Israel proves that cultured and educated people are humans without prejudice. Born and raised in historically conflicting countries, Afshani and Siegal are acting against a common assumption that Muslims and Jews are enemies. Yet we all have to admit that on a political or religious level these artists might face some disapproval from their folks. Nevertheless, they go ahead to create an installation proving that people from confronting states can team up if they have peaceful intentions.
The art project found a response from non-governmental organizations such as Women’s Caucus for Art. Also, Israeli mass media published and broadcasted the story of two female artists trying to bring awareness and raise funds for “The First Supper”. As the project matures, the idea to call for other female artists to join the movement seems really attractive and fun. Current call for collaboration invites artists of any ancestry and background to design a small patch to be stitched to the tablecloth for “The First Supper”.
The installation is planned to be presented at the “Show Your World” art exhibition curated by RE:ARTISTE at Gallery MC in New York. The artists want to make this project traveling in order to bring along more people to the dinner table, educate about different cultures, raise vulnerable questions, find answers. Only a dialogue – not a fight – can fix political problems. The goal of “The First Supper” is to become the first talk fostered by an art installation where the artwork is a powerful educational tool. “The First Supper” should become the first conversation in a range of many more productive discussions in the future where women’s voices are meaningful – more meaningful than gunshots.