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JEWISH AFRICA: A Cultural and Historical Photographic Survey – Words and Images from and about Jewish Africa, by Jono David
JONO DAVID is going on a JEWISH SAFARI
Welcome! Thanks for visiting. My blog aims to keep you informed of the adventures, events, and progress of my project, Jewish Africa: A Cultural and Historical Photographic Survey. Come on this great safari with me. I could use the company. To get you acquainted with my mission, here’s an outline of the project. For continued updates, please join my email list. Have fun!
PHOTOGRAPHING JEWISH AFRICA
Jewish Africa: A Cultural and Historical Photographic Survey successfully kicked off in August / September 2012 in South Africa and Zimbabwe. It was the first leg of a projected eight in an attempt to photographically document Jewish life, culture, and history in some 30 countries. The project is expected to be completed by early April 2016.
Here are the stats on legs thus far:
Leg #1 in August~September 2012: South Africa, Zimbabwe: 8,273 filed images, 6 weeks, 2 countries, from 85 unique locations and including 51 synagogues, 10 cemeteries, and dozens of social and life cycle events, portraits of community members, and much more.
Leg #2 in January~April 2013: South Africa, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia: 10,593 filed images, 9 weeks, 42 cemeteries, 6 museums, 51 synagogues, and dozens of social and life cycle events, portraits of community members, and much more.
Leg #3 in August~September 2013: South Africa, Botswana, Swaziland, Kenya, Uganda: 3,000 filed images, including the fascinating communities of the Abayudaya Jews of Uganda and plenty of social events photo opportunities in South Africa and elsewhere.
Leg #4 in February~April 2014: South Africa, Ghana, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Rwanda. I used my base camp of South Africa once again. From Johannesburg, I finally got out to the country communities of Kimberley and Bloemfontein (two previous planned excursions there fell through). I then headed to Ghana and Cameroon (a week each) to spend time with the Jews of the House of Israel and Congregation Beth Yeshourun (respectively). After a quick turnaround in Johannesburg, I flew out again to the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) to photograph an old synagogue and a few Jewish cemeteries in the southern city of Lubumbashi and, across the country in the capital of Kinshasa, I photographed Chabad of Central Africa (yep, there’s a yeshiva in the DRC). After catching my breath again in Jo’burg, I went to Rwanda for a week. There, I photographed the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre (which features the “Windows of Hope” stained glass by an artist whose father survived Auschwitz) and the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village, established “to enable orphaned and vulnerable youth to realize their maximum potential by providing them with a safe and secure living environment, health care, education and necessary life skills (from ASYV website).” It was founded with the support of the Edmond J. Safra Foundation, a Jewish organization. The last three weeks of my journey were spent in Johannesburg (I was there for Purim) and the glorious Cape Town where I filled my time and memory card photographing a number of Jewish events and individuals that shape Jewish South Africa, including Holocaust survivors.
Leg #5 in July~September 2014 took me to South Africa, Madagascar, La Reunion, and Angola (plus a week in Israel). To read about my time in Madagascar and a few other thoughts, see my Jewish Africa blog. Even before I set out on leg #5, I knew I wouldn’t be filing a mass number of images. Instead, I knew I’d get some images from unique locations. I participated in the Limmud (Jewish Cultural) conference in Cape Town (Stellenbosch, actually), Durban, and Johannesburg, South Africa. I gave two presentations in each location, one on my background story as a Jewish photographic documentarian, the other wholly on my current Jewish Africa photo survey project. I also met three ambassadors. In Luanda, Angola, I spent time with Raphael Singer, Israeli Ambassador to Angola, Mozambique, and Sao Tome & Principe. He was exceptionally welcoming, accommodating, friendly, helpful, and gracious. In South Africa, I met Arthur Lenk, Israeli Ambassador to South Africa. I had actually briefly at an event in Johannesburg in August 2013. We crossed paths at all three Limmud events. I also met Yutaka Yoshizawa, Ambassador of Japan to South Africa at an event remembering Chiune Sugihara, the so-called “Japanese Schindler”. I met a host of remarkable people as I always do. I even got to hang out with lemur in Madagascar!
Leg #6 is slated for February-April 2015. It’s been a crazy time configuring an itinerary, in fact, a scramble for Africa. It seems, however, that I’ll be heading to Morocco, Ethiopia, and Eritrea (plus another excursion to Israel). It will be just a bit odd not to be going to South Africa. I’ve been on every leg thus far. I will miss it dearly and all the friends I have made there. But there’s a very good chance I’ll be back at least for a bit later next year.
These remarkable journeys, the unique experiences they bring, and the welcoming people I have met, inspire me to dream big and will help propel my endeavor to photographically document Jewish life, culture, and history in some 30 nations on the African continent in order to contribute to the diverse Jewish historical record across that great land.
HISTORY — THE JEWISH PEOPLE IN AFRICA
Since the time of Abraham and his sojourn in Egypt, the Jewish people have had a presence in Africa, making some communities the oldest in the world. Communities such as the Beta Israel (Falasha) of Ethiopia and the Lemba of South Africa and Zimbabwe claim descent from ancient Israel (the Lost Tribes of Israel). Furthermore, Jews in Africa are greatly diverse peoples with distinct cultures, languages, and customs. They include the Sephardi and Mizrahi across North Africa, and mostly Ashkenazi Jews from Europe who settled in Southern Africa, particularly in South Africa. In fact, over several recent decades, a number of ethnic groups from around the continent have claimed a Jewish, Hebrew, or Israelite lineage. These groups include, but are not limited to, the Igbo (Nigeria), the Zakhor (Mali), the House of Israel (Ghana), the Tutsi-Hebrews (Rwanda and Burundi), and the Abayudaya (Uganda). Today, no Jewish community in Africa is expanding (though some of the aforementioned groups are). Some are in great peril either in terms of population, economic hardship, political and/or religious pressures, cultural assimilation, or a combination thereof. Many communities have already disappeared, leaving behind their synagogues, cemeteries, homes, buildings, legacies, and contributions to local life. Sadly, in most cases, those communities eventually fall into obscurity.
Though my objectives are many, my main aim is to compile the single largest photographic survey of Jewish life and culture on the African continent compiled by an individual photographer. As a documentarian, my goal is not merely to preserve as much of Jewish Africa in photographs for posterity, but to bring light to communities that have become dark, and to stoke a worldwide (Jewish) consciousness for the long, rich, significant, exciting, and important historical record, past and present, of Jewish Africa. I anticipate filing a minimum of 100,000 photographs. Along the way, I also intend to write about my findings and adventures in Jewish publications and my personal blog, and to publish a book and give presentations once the job is complete (if such a job can ever be complete).
This ambitious mission that I have set out for myself will be no easy undertaking. It will demand a personal commitment much deeper than to any previous Jewish photo tour I have taken to date. Success will also depend greatly upon many, many generous souls both locally and around the world to give of their time and assistance. No matter the results, it will be an amazing journey. I hope that you will come along with me by lending me your support (financially, logistically, spiritually), by following my social network posts and my blog, by developing an awareness of and an interest in Jewish Africa, and by sharing with friends and family whatever bits fire your imagination. SUPPORT OPTIONS and IDEAS include but are not limited to: financial, logistical, publications, exhibitions, publicity. Become a partner today by offering your own measure of support. From $1 to one contact, from one suggestion to one sharing of my work with your friends, your support in whatever form and at whatever level of commitment is a valuable asset in the creation and sustainability of this photo project. To read more on support, check out Check, please! on my blog.
WHERE I INTEND TO PHOTOGRAPH (in alphabetical order): Algeria, Botswana, Burundi, Canary Islands* (Spanish archipelago), Cameroon, Cape Verde, Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Libya, Madeira* (Portuguese archipelago), Madagascar, Mali, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Réunion* (French Island), Rwanda, Sao Tome & Principe, Senegal, South Africa, Swaziland, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. (* = politically European but geographically African.)
WHAT I INTEND TO PHOTOGRAPH
Every Jewish cemetery
Jewish holiday and festival events
Monuments, museums, historical sights
Community leaders and members
FURTHER READING ABOUT MY JEWISH AFRICA PHOTO PROJECT — SCATTERLINGS OF AFRICA (Cape Jewish Chronicle, March 2012, Cape Town, South Africa) — project feature. JONO DAVID CARRIES JEWISH FLAME OF MEMORY (South African Jewish Report, Friday, 7 Sep 2012 — pdf, feature on page 12; Johannesburg, South Africa). JEWISH LIFE AROUND THE WORLD (Jewish Life Magazine, Dec 2012, Johannesburg, South Africa).
### end (updated: October 29, 2014)
To read more blog posts, CLICK to VISIT: HaChayim HaYehudim Jewish Photo Library BLOG
ADDITIONAL BLOG POSTS:
“The Scramble for Africa” (October 28, 2014)
“Not Just Jewish Africa” (September 18, 2014)
“Madagascar: Land of Long Names and Long Ancestral Lines” (August 16, 2014)
“Why Class” (July 29, 2014)
“#5″ (July 13, 2014)
“D’R We’ll See” (March 25, 2014)
“Hunger Games” (March 15, 2014)
“Marooned in Cameroon” (March 6, 2014)
“House of Israel, Ghana (part 4 of 4), A Jewish Epiphany” (part 4 of 4) (March 3, 2014)
“House of Israel, Ghana (part 3 of 4), Meshugah for Mezuzah” (February 27, 2014)
“House of Israel, Ghana (part 2 of 4): I Thought There was a Service” (February 23, 2014)
“House of Israel, Ghana (part 1 of 4): I’m Jewish Too” (February 20, 2014)
“Country Community Roads” (February 18, 2014)
“All Aboard the Number 4″ (January 6, 2014)
“ABAYUDAYA: The Jews of Uganda” (September 5, 2013)
“Out of Jewish Africa” (August 26, 2013)
“A Hectic Week” (August 20, 2013)
“Lady in Red” (August 13, 2013)
“Calendar Uncertainty” (August 9, 2013)
“Africa again” (July 30, 2013)
Slurred Slurs (April 21, 2013)
Check, please! (March 27, 2013)
An Observant Jew (March 17, 2013)
JEWISH STARS: Owen Griffiths (February 19, 2013)
JEWISH STARS: Michael Galaun (February 10, 2013)
JEWISH STARS: Joy Judes (February 2, 2013)
JEWISH STARS: The Travelling Rabbi (February 2, 2013)
From Osaka to Lusaka (December 16, 2012)
Too Much of a Great Thing (September 14, 2012)
Too Much Magic Bus (September 8, 2012)
A Week of Contrasts (August 19, 2012)
110% (August 12, 2012)
Jewish Geography: Africa (July 28, 2012)
When One Door Closes, Many Others Open (July 8, 2012)
A Serendipitous Email (June 20, 2012)
Dark Jewish Star Safari (June 8, 2012)
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