In a trance

The "Moroccan Charm" exhibition at the L.A. Mayer Museum for Islamic Art provides a different kind of museum experience.

moroccan charm 88 (photo credit: )
moroccan charm 88
(photo credit: )
You don't have to be a Moroccan to enjoy the current exhibition at the L.A. Mayer Museum for Islamic Art. But you'd better forget everything you've been told about the stern, decorous atmosphere usually associated with such a serious location. Because at the "Moroccan Charm - Art of the Berber Tribes" exhibition, the atmosphere is very different. With traditional music and dances, films and even great samples of delicious food - one can hardly think of a better way to encounter another culture. The exhibition itself, a collection of carpets, textiles and jewelry (the Blazek and Grammet collections), has been curated by Rahel Sasson. It opened last month and will remain open until May 16. Throughout this time, special days have been dedicated to different aspects of this wonderful land and culture, including historical Jewish topics. Recently, on one such special day, visitors were introduced to the tradition of trance dancing ceremonies in the Atlas mountains, preceded by a glimpse of what had been, until the middle of the previous century, the splendor of ancient Jewish synagogues in different regions of Morocco. The event opened with a lecture by Ariela Amar, a world-renowned expert on architectural traditions of synagogues in North Africa, on the different periods and their influences on the praying areas in Morocco. Following the lecture, participants had the opportunity to vividly experience a trance ceremony. Anthropologist Sigal Azaryahu, who has travelled throughout the Moroccan desert and the Atlas Mountains, captivated the audience as she provided a real-life example of the dance. All was set for the arrival of the dancer, and then she came: Myriam Peretz, a member of the Inbal dance theater. Completely draped in black, she gave a few examples of trance dancing. In the main exhibition hall, surrounded by the hauntingly beautiful artifacts, her long black hair enveloping her almost like a second skin, Peretz took the public away from the peaceful Talbiyeh surroundings and transported them to the mountains of the Atlas. The fact that Peretz is actually an American-Israeli seemingly merely added to the charm - as if she were trying to convey universal messages about women, beauty, trance and ceremonies understood only to those inner circles of women who feel the same attraction to the desert landscape and its secrets. Following the dance, Peretz explained that she was born to an American mother and a Berber father, that she had always felt attracted to her father' s family traditions and that she had naturally found her way into traditional eastern dancing and performing. Peretz, who is also a member of the Synapsa Studio in Kiryat Anavim, said that she had "found herself in the eastern traditions which she studies and performs throughout Israel and abroad." The special day ended with traditional Moroccan dishes - which was, of course, yet another way of entering into some kind of trance. Even if the trance and the food are not there anymore, the beautiful artifacts, the hand woven carpets and textiles, the photographs and the jewelry are still there until May 16. The L.A. Mayer Museum for Islamic Art. 2 Rehov Hapalmah.