The contribution of women in shaping their country’s history is often overlooked. During her two-months as an artist in residence at the Belgrade Art Studio, Israeli artist Noa Arad Yairi chose to focus on this topic and to depict the untold history of the Serbian women who changed their nation.
“Like many western women today, I live with the conviction that I am free to define my femininity while leading a meaningful life in any form I see fit and to voice my opinions and concerns. Yet do I really? Don't I pay a social price to some extent whenever I ignore gender dictates? Somewhat like my Serbian predecessors?” Arad Yairi remarked. “By drawing and painting images of these women from their few existing portraits - using a variety of techniques - I wish to create a multiplicity of ‘voices’ and viewpoints.”
The residency was supported by the Embassy of Israel in Serbia. The artwork created over the course of the two months was featured in the exhibition “I had to myself become the sun,” which was inaugurated in October.
“Some of these women have a physical resemblance to my mother, Miriam, and other members of her family,” Arad Yairi said. “These resemblances led me to create a cross generational and cultural contemplation between my mother, myself and the Serbian women. I assembled all of us on different surfaces yet there is no distinction between the different generations.”
“By such a representation I am trying to explore what unites us and what dissociates us, wondering whether women of today are really that far apart from those Serbian women,” she added. “In a way I participate in a continuous feminist attempt to create ‘herstories’."
Based in Jerusalem, Arad Yairi focuses on sculpture, installations and painting. She is an initiating member of the artists' venture HaMiffal (Hebrew for The Factory). She teaches at the Emuna Academic College of Art and at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem.
"The exhibition of an Israeli artist who draws her inspiration from the Serbian past is evidence that the cultural dialogue between our countries gives rise to works that influence society in the right place and at the right time,” said Deputy Ambassador of Israel Alexandra Ben Ari, who attended the opening of the exhibition together with Consul Dana Lifshitz. “Today, more than ever, it is necessary to tell the women's story and not let their voices be erased."