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Ghiora Aharoni: The Menorah Project
Ghiora Aharoni: The Menorah Project
Ghiora Aharoni, an Israeli-born, New York-based, multi-talented creative professional, works at the intersection of art, design and architecture across three continents: America, Europe and India. A core principle in all three mediums is the integration of divergent cultures and materials. His work is also informed by his deep contemplation of the relationship between the divine and humanity, metaphysics and present day existence, and logic and the mysteries of divine logic. Meanwhile, Aharoni’s Jewish faith is undoubtedly the fundamental building block that spurs his explorations and drives their manifestation as three- dimensional objects.
Duggal Visual Solutions had the good fortune to work with Aharoni as a client in the past, on his project Missives, which involved printing on delicate rice paper. During the experience, we developed a keen interest in the full range of his creative process.
Two 2017 works, the Antiochus Scroll Menorah and Paradesi Menorah, both additions to Aharoni’s eight part series Menorah Project, are emblematic of core values grounded in respect and advocacy, through art, for intercultural understanding. The menorah, popularly known as a sacred candelabrum and iconic symbol of the Jewish Hanukkah celebration, expands its meaning with renewed resonance in contemporary culture through Aharoni’s work.
A deeper understanding of the symbolic nature of the menorah reveals its narrative of victory over oppression – a narrative that Aharoni pairs with his commitment to what he characterizes as, “our obligation to defend cultural freedom and to engender light in a time of darkness,” as well as, “the responsibility of the individual in the role of social vigilance.”
The Antiochus Scroll Menorah is a sculptural assemblage made of vintage laboratory tubes and engraved with 15th century text from The Scroll of Antiochus. The text tells the story of Hanukkah and is read in Aramaic, a sister language of Hebrew and Phoenician, in the Yemenite tradition of the holiday. The piece integrates black candles into a labyrinth-like structure made of clear glass tubes with text in black wrapped around them. A series of clamps, made of what appears to be black steel, holds the tubes suspended in mid-air, attached to a rectangular mirror framed in black steel with two black sculpted lions on either side.
The Paradesi Menorah takes its cues from the expansion of Judaism into India and the building of the region’s first synagogue in 1567 in Kochi, India. The name, Paradesi Synagogue, translates from Hindi to “foreigners” or “strangers” synagogue – a temple of “the other.” Over the centuries, some of the synagogues’ rituals have integrated aspects of Hindu ceremonies, a symbol of lived cultural-coexistence for Aharoni. In Paradesi Menorah, puja – an Indian form of worship practiced by Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, and Sikhs – is paired with the ceremonial worship symbolized by a menorah. Terra cotta diya from India, traditionally a ghee/oil based candle used for puja, are lit with camphor and installed within a black steel circular container. At the center of the installation is a menorah centerpiece. With fire emanating from both the ceremonial lamps of puja and the menorah, Aharoni, in his words, “[celebrates] the interconnectivity of ritual and cultures through fire, a symbol of purity, divinity and dynamism.”
In much of Aharoni’s work, the unification of multiple narratives offers an exquisite commentary on the potential of human life in a celestial universe – whether it be Indian and Jewish, divinity and humanity, or the natural and industrial materials integrated in his design work in the form of walnut and steel. To paraphrase Aharoni, ultimately there is an expansive vitality, which springs from intercultural co-existence, and an unending dynamic process that resonates in both divine and mortal existence.
photos from Ghiora Aharoni Design Studio Facebook page