About the Art, Not the Art of Incitement

 

The South African Friends of Israel and the Embassy of Israel in South Africa hosted the very successful launch of the #YallaYebo Photo Exhibition at the FotoZA Gallery in Rosebank Mall, JHB, on Thursday evening (31 May 2018). Over a hundred art enthusiasts, together with dignitaries, community leaders and media attended.  

Israeli Ambassador Lior Keinan and Deputy Ambassador Ayellet Black addressed the audience, focusing on the importance of creating a cultural space where people can experience a different side of both countries, enabling a neutral platform for dialogue and engagement. 

The event was the culmination of an artist exchange programme which took place in October 2017.  The concept of the exhibition is to showcase the beauty, diversity and similarities of South Africa and Israel, through the artist’s eyes and experiences. Two Israeli instagrammers came to South Africa to photo-document the country’s richly diverse cultures and impressive landscapes, and in turn two South African instagrammers went to Israel, mirroring this project. 

The event went ahead despite a frantic, last minute attempt to disrupt it by about two dozen anti-Israel protestors, who typically resorted to noisy abuse, intimidation and aggression. Flags representing the radical Islamist Hezbollah movement were brandished and curses and insults hurled at patrons wishing to access the venue, including Nazi and racist threats. Despite this being an illegal picket, and being politely asked to leave the venue by police and mall security, the mob became confrontational, evidently bent on provoking a violent confrontation. 

Most people, including a number of journalists, were baffled and disgusted at the way a neutral and cultural space such as an art gallery was being targeted, and people made to feel uncomfortable and unsafe by these hooligans. As one visitor commented, “perhaps they feared that the pictures contradicted their lies, and rather showcased both countries in their diversity and beauty”. 

We would like to thank our partners, all those who enjoyed the launch, and the security personnel who handled everything so proficiently. 

We encourage those who were prevented from entering the venue or couldn’t make it, to visit the exhibition and not be discouraged by gross acts of intimidation. On the contrary, show your support to the artists for their incredible vision and talent. 

The #YallaYebo Photo Exhibition will be running until the 10th June at FotoZA Gallery in Rosebank Mall. Images are available to purchase. 

 

Ben Swartz

Co- Chairman: South African Friends of Israel

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