« | Home | »

ǝɔɐǝd ןɐnʇǝdɹǝd

Tags: | | |

Last year I gave the Israeli artist Amir Nave an old Hebrew copy of Immanuel Kant’s Perpetual Peace, which I teach every so often in my Introduction to Political Theory class. He took the book, flipped through it, ripped out the title page, turned it upside down, signed it and returned it to me. Nave, an Arab Jew of Iraqi descent, didn’t say anything, but the gesture was eloquent enough: we are living in an era of perpetual war, and peace emerges, if at all, in the interregnum.

Nave’s children go to the same school as mine. It’s called Hagar, after the biblical figure who wandered between different peoples and cultures in the desert not far from where I live. Hagar was founded by a group of Jewish and Palestinian parents who wanted to create a shared space for their children. It’s the only non-segregated school in the Negev region, which is home to about 700,000 Israelis, more than a quarter of whom are Palestinian Bedouin.
 
A few years ago, after we had been running two Jewish-Palestinian nursery schools, the Beer-Sheva municipality allowed Hagar to make use of an old run-down school in a crumbling neighbourhood, one of the city’s poorest. The bathrooms stank: the decrepit pipes hadn’t been replaced for years. Outside, in the half hectare of yellow soil that the city bureaucrats called a playground, there was no water fountain for the children to drink from, not even any shade for them to play in. It was a site of callous neglect. 
 
The library was in the bomb shelter. It had thick concrete walls, a low ceiling with long fluorescent lights, no windows and a heavy metal door. There were about two hundred books on old brown shelves along the walls. Nave, who was instrumental in transforming the school’s yard into a place of adventure and whose uncompromising vision has changed the way the school community relates to space, decided to convert the library into a pirate ship. He abandoned his Tel Aviv studio for a few weeks to build a deck, mast and wheel, turning the walls into the sea and the ceiling into a blue sky. He even imported a treasure chest and a statue of a pirate from England, who now sits gazing at the ocean. ‘Maybe the creation of a different space,’ he told me, ‘will be more inviting and allow the children to sail away.’

Boats appear in many of Nave’s paintings, and seem to symbolise for him the possibility of change. In My Ego and Me, the haunting but surprisingly un-despairing figures are foregrounded by an empty boat with four white oars. When I asked Nave about the recurring boat imagery in his work, he said: ‘It could be a flight fantasy, or the condition of possibility of creating something new, or maybe both.’

I am not sure if he has read Kant, or whether he is aware of the German philosopher’s search for the conditions that make knowledge, aesthetic judgment, moral behaviour or perpetual peace possible. But for me, Nave’s work evokes the possibility and the necessity of imagining differently in a war zone.

Comment on this post

Log in or register to post a comment.


  • Recent Posts

    RSS – posts

  • Contributors

  • Recent Comments

    • pgillott on Wishful Thinking about Climate Change: Phrases like “monumental triumph” and (particularly) “renaissance for humankind” are overdoing it, but to suggest that there is no chance of ...
    • UncleShoutingSmut on Goodbye, Circumflex: Unfortunately this post is likely to leave readers with a very partial idea of what is going on. Firstly, there is no "edict": all that has happened i...
    • martyn94 on The Price of Everything: If it's a joke at anyone's expense, it's surely at the expense of any super-rich who take it seriously. I used to skim it occasionally as a diversion ...
    • mideastzebra on Swedish-Israeli Tensions: Avigdor Liberman was not foreign minister November 2015.
    • lars hakanson on Exit Cameron: Europe will for good reason rejoice when the UK elects to leave. The country has over the years provided nothing but obstacles to European integration...

    RSS – comments

  • Contact

  • Blog Archive

  • From the LRB Archive

    Chris Lehmann: The Candidates
    18 June 2015

    ‘Every one of the Republican candidates can be described as a full-blown adult failure. These are people who, in most cases, have been granted virtually every imaginable advantage on the road to success, and managed nevertheless to foul things up along the way.’

    Hugh Pennington:
    The Problem with Biodiversity
    10 May 2007

    ‘As a medical microbiologist, for example, I have spent my career fighting biodiversity: my ultimate aim has been to cause the extinction of harmful microbes, an objective shared by veterinary and plant pathologists. But despite more than a hundred years of concentrated effort, supported by solid science, smallpox has been the only success.’

    Jeremy Harding: At the Mexican Border
    20 October 2011

    ‘The battle against illegal migration is a domestic version of America’s interventions overseas, with many of the same trappings: big manpower commitments, militarisation, pursuit, detection, rendition, loss of life. The Mexican border was already the focus of attention before 9/11; it is now a fixation that shows no signs of abating.’

    James Meek: When the Floods Came
    31 July 2008

    ‘Last July, a few days after the floods arrived, with 350,000 people still cut off from the first necessity of life, Severn Trent held its annual general meeting. It announced profits of £325 million, and confirmed a dividend for shareholders of £143 million. Not long afterwards the company, with the consent of the water regulator Ofwat, announced that it wouldn’t be compensating customers: all would be charged as if they had had running water, even when they hadn’t.’

Advertisement Advertisement