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Pendant Letters

The title, Pendant Letters, derives from a literal translation of the Arabic maalek, a term designating the Judeo-Arabic script used among Jews in the Arab world. One of the videos on show features the manuscript of a play written in the 1950's in pendant lettering, by an amateur playwright by the name of Shahadani. Shahadani emigrated from Tunis to Israel in 1951, a time of massive Jewish immigration from North Africa. A parallel video channel presents the story of Shahadani's wife, Zina, who during the 1930's and 1940's was a famous actress in the Jewish theater in Tunis. In Israel the family settled in an 'abandoned' Arab house rented from the Jewish Agency. It is there that they started a Jewish-Arab theater company of some 30 actors. Shahadani wrote plays in a mixed Judeo-Arabic dialect, with plots based on Biblical stories of Jews in minoritary, compromising circumstances such as Joseph and the Coat of Many Colors or the Book of Esther. He also composed the music and directed the productions, while Zina, now 97, acted as principal actress, sewed costumes and designed stage sets. Their Jewish-Tunisian theater kept going for a number of years, helping them to preserve their Arab heritage. But with no exterior funding it ran into difficulties, and in 1959 had to close down.

For segment from the videos:

Pendant Letters



Dvir Gallery, 2014 - Exhibition view