Spray in a playback

“We had to prepare every aspect, with workshops for the children, with strict gender separation, of course, and provide background on what graffiti is and how it stands as art,” said Cohn.

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October 2, 2019 21:50
2 minute read.
Spray in a playback

GRAFFIDOS: ‘A combination of graffiti and “dossim” [haredim].’. (photo credit: HODAYA TOLEDANO)

A huge wall, free for any experiment; a haredi neighborhood; and a bunch of ultra-Orthodox graffiti artists are all that Art Shelter Gallery chief curator Noa Lea Cohn needed to realize one of her dreams. Cohn wanted to do something more than the usual art classes and exhibitions to supplement the empowerment of haredi artists who pass through this remarkable place.

So last year, on the day after Sukkot, she gathered a few graffiti artists – each of whom had a very particular story and came from different places along the religious affiliation spectrum – and took them on a spectacular adventure. She located a 100-square meter wall in the heart of the haredi Mekor Baruch neighborhood (close to Mahaneh Yehuda), collected the necessary funds, and invited the artists to use the wall for grafitti. “That’s how Graffidos was born,” she said enthusiastically, “a combination of grafitti and dossim [haredim].”

It turned into much more than a session of grafitti – it was a real community. It was also quite a bold event, as it involved neighborhood residents, including families and children, who were all invited to take part. “There was never such a thing in any haredi neighborhood,” said Cohn. “We had to prepare every aspect, with workshops for the children, with strict gender separation, of course, and provide background on what graffiti is and how it stands as art.”

It was a great success, even apart from the visual and artistic results. At one point, a large crane was brought in to enable one of the artists to reach the top of the wall, something that added a lot of suspense and growing interest from the public. The project enabled graffiti artists who came to Jerusalem from across the world to tell their own stories, some of which included long journeys back to their Jewish roots through art.

“At the end of that memorable day,” Cohn recalled, “we realized that we had much more than a one-day community artistic event, and we sought ways to continue this unique gathering.” That is how Graffidos soon was followed by “Sprayback,” another remarkable event that took place on Sunday, September 22, at the Leo Model Hall on Bezalel Street in Nahlaot.

“This time we linked the grafitti artists with actors from the religious Nekuda Tova [Good Point] theater group. The public had the opportunity to hear the personal stories of men who were lost, estranged from their families and communities, who lived troubled lives in New York or Paris and finally managed to get back home through their arts, which literally saved their souls and lives. Meanwhile, the actors used their stories to play the artists on stage.”

The members of Graffidos are Yiddy Leibovitz, Dan Groover, “Aishman” and Elliot Leigh Tucker, aka “Aleph.”


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