Ani Ma'amin (I Believe) by Dion Futerman

Dion Futerman

Ani Ma'amin (I Believe), 2016, Graphite pencil on paper, 210 x 300 mm, Collection of the artist (?), © Dion Futerman

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‘I Believe’

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In this drawing with a pencil on paper, South African–Israeli artist Dion Futerman presents a figure in prayer who stands before a wall with his head bending low. The image does not show his face, but the hunched shoulders compel viewers to recognize the posture of a person in prayer.

The wall is undoubtedly ha-kotel ha-ma‘aravi, the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem. The location powerfully summons the memory of the fall of Jerusalem commemorated on the day of Tisha b’Av, when the Jewish people reflect upon the repeated disaster in history and other colossal catastrophes that took place elsewhere.

The figure’s two feet are not planted squarely and so suggest tentativeness, perhaps even precariousness. The tallit (his prayer shawl) covers a body that may be mourning. Above him, we can observe a few plants that have managed to find their path to life through the cracks of the stone.

The Hebrew title of the artwork, Ani Ma’amin (‘I Believe’), is derived from the teaching of the famous twelfth-century rabbi Moses Maimonides, who taught the Thirteen Principles of Faith. He began each line of the faith statements with ’ani ma‘amin be-emunah shelemah (‘I believe with full faith’). Principle 12 mandates persistent waiting for the coming of the Messiah, recalling the counsel of God, who said to the prophet, ‘If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay / but the righteous will live by their faith’ (Habakkuk 2:3–4).

During the Holocaust, Ani Ma’amin was sung by ‘pious and obstinate Jews in the ghettos and camps’ (Wiesel 1973: 11). Set to several tunes, the lyric continues to be performed in the commemoration of victims of those horrors. Many also recite it at the end of their morning prayer.

Perhaps, the supplicant in Futerman’s drawing is also at his morning prayer. The shadow cast over him insinuates that the sun rises behind him as he prays. The hour recalls the prophet’s counsel in verse 3b (‘If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay’).

 

References

Wiesel, Elie. 1973. Ani maamin: A Song Lost and Found Again; Music for the Cantata Composed by Darius Milhaud, trans. by Marion Wiesel (New York: Random House)


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