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The Virtual Musrara Museum is an initiative of Musrara, The Naggar School of Art and Society, and Musrara Galleries to have an additional display space in the school's historic building in the Musrara neighborhood. The museum is a unique platform for presenting contemporary exhibitions in a virtual architectural space based on the school's historic building plan. The museum offers an interactive and independent wandering experience.

The exhibition space will open in September 2020 with a guided tour of "LAWETLAT'LA" ("The Smoking Mountain") exhibition, and later with a rotating collection of exhibitions.

LAWETLAT'LA - The Smoking Mountain Exhibition was created within the framework of "The Hero's Journey of Transformation" project as part of Communities Connecting HeritageSM , a program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. Government and administered by World Learning.

("The Smoking Mountain")
ההר המעשן
الجبل المدخن

Curator: Avi Sabag

“The portrait-photograph is a closed field of forces. Four image-repertoires intersect here, oppose and distort each other. In front of the lens, I am at the same time: the one I think I am, the one I want others to think I am, the one the photographer thinks I am, and the one he makes use of to exhibit his art.”

Photography allows us to confront otherness within a new space, transforming the gaze into a material presence: physical, metaphorical, and self-aware. As Roland Barthes states, in a portrait-photograph the gazes of the photographer, the subject, and the lens enter into a shifting paradigm of perspectives, appearances, and power, emerging from the encounter between the conscious and the unconscious, the controlled and the uncontrollable.

Shongeska JacksonShonegaska Jackson, Born 2011, Port Angeles, Washington, Quileute and Ponca Tribes/ Hawaiian

The virtual exhibition Smoking Mountain presents photographs and video works documenting an exceptional meeting which took place in the winter of 2019–20. It now seems like a different time, right before the Corona virus altered our lives and our existence on this planet, and the possibilities for face-to-face encounters between people from different countries – let alone continents – were abruptly diminished. A team of five representatives from the Naggar School, we left Jerusalem for the United States on what we believed to be a formative journey of growth and change. We were to be hosted by Native American groups in Oregon and Washington, within the framework of the Communities Connecting Heritage (CCH) program, a remarkable international initiative dedicated to preserving the cultural legacies of endangered communities around the world and to forming connections among international organizations. The Naggar School was the first educational institution in Israel selected to participate in the CCH. On the American side, the meeting was arranged by Wisdom of the Elders, a Portland-based organization for the preservation the area's Native American cultural traditions.

CarlaDean CalderaCarlaDean Caldera, Born 1965, Eugene, Oregon, Northern Paiute/ Klamath Tribes, Culture Advocate

The "Smoking Mountain" refers to Mount St. Helen, or Lawetlat'la, as it is called by the Cowlitz tribe and the united tribes of the Yakarna Nation for whom the mountain has been sacred for thousands of years, marking the place of their forefathers. Countless stories and folktales told about the mountain throughout the generations affirm its status as a supernatural entity possessing powers of both destruction and renewal. To this day Native Americans travel to the mountain for personal spiritual journeys as well as traditional communal ceremonies. Holding the hands of Chesga, Tim, Kunu, and Duane, we reach spots with breathtaking views: snow-capped mountains and dense forests bathed in a magical and mysterious light. From each place we visit, we can see the mountain in all its mystical beauty, safeguarding the treasures of the Native Americans, bearing witness to the tragedies of their history, and offering hope and healing on the horizon.

We decided to take most of the portraits of our hosts following the traditional reception ceremony held in our honor. We set up a temporary photography space in the style of Irving Penn's travelling studio: we arranged sacred cedar branches in a circle and asked the participants to stand inside, each in the pose and clothing of their choice, alone, in pairs, or in groups of three. We wished to establish photography as the act connecting us "with the complete other who I am unable to contain," as Levinas states – with the eternal other who is also our construct. These photographs are displayed at the entrance to the exhibition, alongside the landscape photographs. In the room on the left the portrait of a Native American storyteller is displayed alongside a video work in which she is also featured; a number of children's portraits are shown here as well. The balcony space is dedicated to an archive of documentary films made by our hosts detailing with their traditions and way of life, accompanied by our own impressions of our journey.

Jordan DavisJordan Davis, Born 2005, Clallam, Washington, Quileute Tribe

Our journey began with a degree of certainty, as our preparatory work included correspondence and historical and cultural research, but so much was unknown: how does a program of dry details, names, and locations become a vibrant and expanding tapestry, imbuing our journey with substance? What can we contribute from our own work connecting art and social issues, and how do we express that which we witness through photography and video? Maurice Merleau-Ponty describes the gaze as a physical experience, and the gaze of the other as that which brings the self – the subject – into existence. What does this mean when examining our hosts' portraits, works which are at once documentary and theatrical? How do they challenge our ability to see the other within a sphere that is not only aesthetic but also ethical? Their gaze reveals itself to us and draws us into a dialogue, and when we are compelled to return their gaze we are therefore compelled to take responsibility for the other and for ourselves.

Tim Keenan BurgessTim Keenan Burgess, Born 1973, Nevada, Shoshone/Paiute Tribes, Filmmaker and Program Director at Wisdom of the Elders Inc

Our most meaningful experience with nature on the trip took place in the fishing village of La Push, situated on the mouth of the Quillayute River and inhabited by descendants of the Quileute tribe. The photographs of the reservation's stretch of beach capture moments of our time there – The light ocean waves caressing our feet as we walk along the sand in which our reflections appear and disappear, as if on thin and fragile glass, the fleeting nature of life steeped in a penetrating and profound beauty. As we view the ocean and the small tree-lined islands emerging from the water, I am reminded of a painting by Caspar David Friedrich, Wanderer above the Sea Fog (1818), exploring the tension between admiration of nature and the desire to control it, a theme expressed by the European man posed dominantly on a mountaintop, surveying the sublime mountain range displayed before him. Another painting by Friedrich, The Monk by the Sea (1801–10), captures human insignificance in the face of nature through the small figure of a man who is almost enveloped by the sky, land, and sea itself. We mused over the power of this interaction with our hosts, who wish not to control nature but rather to merge their lives with its forces, its flowing rivers: this is not a stance of opposition between the finite and the infinite, between amazement and insignificance, but rather a relationship engaging in the emotional and ethical meanings of human existence. In this virtual exhibition nature receives an almost fantastical dimension, as the Naggar School building appears detached from the Jerusalem landscape, floating among images of nature from our journey, encountering objects and sites sacred to our hosts.

Mt St HelensLawetlat'la, Washington State, 2018

We are deeply grateful to the wonderful people, descendants of the First Nations, who are transforming their suffering and near-extermination into a source of strength and inclusion: the residents of the river and the shore, the men, women, and children who greeted us with purity and kindness and shared the voices of the past with love and generosity. For many years they have clung to their rich traditions, healing themselves and therefore healing us through our shared encounter.

We stayed in La Push for another long hour, amazed, astonished, and awakened.

("Thank you from the bottom of our hearts" in In Quileute Tribe language)

Asaf Alboher
Kunu Bearchum
Tim Keenan Burgess
Shirly Goffer
Harvest Moon Howell
Avi Sabag
Chesga Jackson
Duane Lane
Yali Reichert
Dana Shahar

The Virtual Museaum Musrara was created in collaboration with the marketing agency Modus and the studio for new media NXLS. 3D Scans were created by the studio Scan the City
Development, Design and Virtual Positioning: Tal Haring
Social Media: Nir Lax
Graphic Design: Tal Stern
Translation: Sara Sorek

Communities Connecting HeritageSM is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. Government and administered by World Learning.

Matanel Foundation- The Jerusalem Greenhouse for Artists

Special thanks to:
Tim Keenan Burgess and Kunu Bearchum
of Wisdom of the Elders and their team, without whom this project would have not realize itself.
Rose High Bear of Wisdom of the Elders who was the funding mother of the project.
Teresa Montana, CEO of Wisdom of The Elders, for giving this project her good wind.
Nicolette Regis, Taylor Carvalho and Deanna Wertheimer of World Learning for working with such dedication.
Lisa Wishman, Felicity Aziz and Jackie Stein of the American Center, U.S. Embassy in Israel for initiating this liaison.

We would like to extend our sincere thanks and enormous gratitude to our hosts in Oregon and Washington: Tim Keenan Burgess, Kunu, Shoshana and Asa Bearchum, Duane Lane, Chesga Jackson, Harvest Moon Howell, Jordan Wheeler, Dr. Tracy Prince, CarlaDean Caldera and last but not least, we would like to extend our gratitude to the good people of Quileute Tribe, La Push, Clallam, Washington.

Thank you for opening your homes and hearts and sharing your stories and heritage with us - “ma’-sie” ("Thank you" in Chinook Jargon, the Native American commerce language)
We are truly blessed!

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