11 August 2007

Tel Aviv: Pictures of a family

Family history research can take many forms as illustrated by Vardi Kahana. She has spent some 15 years traveling and photographing her extended family, now on exhibit at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art (TAMA).

Cousin Hannan and his wife Zipora, uncle Moshe, aunt Sara and uncle Yehezkel, Gil and Roni, Rivka, cousin Eta's daughter, the Greenwald cousins, aunt Yafa and uncle Baruch... and so on and so on through a pictorial genealogy that envelops four generations and scores of family members in Vardi Kahana's fascinating, and poignant, photographic documentary appropriately entitled One Family.

Kahana begins her exhibition with a triple portrait of her mother Rivka and her sisters Leah and Esther. This black-and-white bromide could have been an ordinary family portrait if it were not for the consecutive numbers tattooed on their arms - A-7760, A-7761, A-7762 - seared eternally into skin as they disembarked from the cattle cars in Auschwitz in 1944.

The numbers tell the story of survivors, their memories of the Holocaust and their suffering, but the photographic image elevates the viewer onto a higher level as it transmits perceptions of pride, new beginnings, determination and, by the compactness of the composition and by the gestural placing of their arms as an act of both cohesion and tenderness, an unending promise of unity.

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