The Shofar School

Made from a ram’s horn, the shofar is an instrument played at different moments in the Jewish calendar, and almost an iconic element in Judaism and among its diasporic communities. The very history of the shofar is linked to the need for communication from a distance: it was used to communicate between remote mountain villages, to warn of the sighting of the new moon and to mark the beginning of the new month. Its loud sound is also strongly bound up in the history of the diaspora, and the fact that in several circumstances and for centuries Jewish people risked their lives to exit the obligation of listening to the loud call of the shofar. The person who is able to blow the shofar is seen as one of the most honourable members of the community. However, both historically and nowadays, learning to play the shofar is subject to normative criteria, and although women are not prohibited from playing the instrument, it is an honour reserved for men. In her work, Yael Bartana explores the imagery of identity. She delves into the complexity of the Jewish diaspora and often confronts political and feminist issues by exploring rituals. In The Shofar School Bartana is creating an online platform to connect people in the Jewish diaspora, regardless of gender, to learn together how to blow the shofar; a learning process that becomes the pretext for sharing stories and redefining what a shared identity is today and what its limits are. Finally, the project reappropriates the idea of empowerment that was traditionally linked to blowing the shofar: for one month, a group of people in different parts of the world will simultaneously blow the horn as a collective call to challenge and reimagine new forms of identity. The Shofar School is taking place in parallel with a performance given by Bartana in Baden-Baden, in which a woman will play the shofar from a helicopter flying over the city.

Open call for participants

The Shofar School brings together a group of 12 participants. Participants undertake a weekly meeting, every Monday during the month of October, between 6PM and 8PM Brussels time. The project invites participants to collectively interpretate and reflect on the ways the shofar can be reimagined as a tool. The meetings will take place through a video-call platform. Meetings might be recorded as material for the artist. All activities of The Diasporic Schools are free of charge. The Shofar School is open to people, based anywhere in the world, who self-identify with the Jewish diaspora or have a close interest/connection with it

Applications to participate in the school must be received between the 20th of August and the 18th September. Participants are asked to send a short letter of motivation (max 400 words), which briefly outlines their interest in the project. Starting from them, the selection is made by the artist taking into account the heterogeneous composition of the group. An answer will arrive for September 20th. To apply, send your application to freeschool@kfda.be with 'The Diasporic Schools' as the subject of the email and the motivation letter attached.

Presentation: Kunstenfestivaldesarts

A work by: Yael Bartana

In collaboration with: Casa do Povo

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Yael Bartana is a visual artist born in Israel in 1970. Her films, installations and photographs explore the imagery of identity through political imagination. Taking as a starting point national consciousness and traditions, in her work she focuses on ceremonies, public rituals and social diversions that are intended to reaffirm the collective identity of the nation state. Bartana investigates these through the realisation of “pre-enactments” that comment on our reality by suggesting alternative presents and possible futures, juxtaposing real life and fiction, and confronting her audiences with their personal and collective responsibilities. Bartana represented Poland in the 54th International Art Exhibition in Venice (2011) with the trilogy And Europe Will Be Stunned. The trilogy was followed by major commissions realised across the globe, such as Inferno (2013), True Finn (2014) and Tashlikh (cast off, 2017). In recent years Bartana has been expanding her artistic practice and experimenting with various forms, such as sound, sculpture and theatre. Her latest work is the ongoing project What If Women Ruled the World (2016-) which combines fictional settings and real life participants, setting up a particular forum for action while exploring possible alternatives to a world dominated by men and traditional perception of power. The Undertaker (2019) and Two Minutes to Midnight (2020) both emerged from this survey.

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