July 21, 2020
By Mina Kupfermann
Addressing the current epidemic of anti-Semitism within British society has become urgent, with anti-Semitic incidents and hate crimes at an all-time high. David Delew, Chief Executive of the Community Security Trust, has said: ‘Hatred is rising and Jewish people are suffering as a result. This should concern everybody because it shows anger and division that threaten all of society’.
Nearly three metres tall, this monumental work stands as witness to an ancient hatred morphing into a modern intolerance. While its intention is to encourage deeper thinking and conversation, its scale speaks of the epic nature of the challenge. The first in a series on anti-Semitism, its message is both personal and universal – a timeless, important reminder of our collective responsibility to fight and overcome the ugliest of our human impulses.
Viewed close-up, the tiny pieces collaged into the painting are disturbing. Sourced largely from social media, they contain examples of every kind of anti-Semitism defined by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), both historical and contemporary. While far-right Jew hate is instantly recognizable, anti-Zionist types of anti-Semitism remain contentious, not least because of the lack of understanding around the IHRA definition and its implications for the human rights movement as a whole.
The societal and collaborative quality of the piece is reflected in its very construction. The source material was contributed by various people of all faiths and political persuasions, and a space for the artwork to be completed was found via the passionate efforts of an interfaith, and hitherto unconnected, group of people in Bristol and Bath.
In order to address racism, I believe that it is first necessary to face it with courage: we must start by looking in the mirror, as imperfect human beings called to do continuous and active work. Denial is our enemy, and I hope to encourage the viewer to confront that enemy head on.
In this powerful video below, the artist Mina Kupfermann describes her the story behind her work in more detail.
See below for detailed photos of “Witness.”
Mina Kupfermann is a British artist based in Bristol, UK. Her focus has been on social issues as well as wildlife conservation. More recently, her work has explored the subject of anti-Semitism in British society. Her work, “Witness” was a winner of the Combat Anti-Semitism Movement’s Emma Lazarus Art Award.
Category: Emma Lazarus Art Award Winners