Joanna Peña-Bickley Artist, Activist, Inventor and Designer
This Crypto Jews art work is designed as an ode and offering during Dia De Los Muertos and Sukkot. This traveling exhibition was inspired by my Mexican-Jewish roots in San Antonio, Texas and North Western Mexico. Crypto-Judaism is the secret adherence to Judaism while publicly professing to be of another faith in order to survive. Today many descendants of the crypto jews are discovering the intersectionality of our shared indeigenous practices. The diaspora of our indegenous, Sephardic ancestors have a deep connection to this moment in history. A moment of historic recurrence, that shatters the norms for human rights by separation of families from their children and secret expulsion of immigrants from the United States of America.
This exhibition honors the shoulders I stand on and the people that have lost their lives seeking safety, peace and freedom in our generation’s hispacnic holocaust.
THE CONNECTION BETWEEN DIA DE LOS MUERTOS & SUKKOT
Dia De Los Muertos also known as the Day of the Dead is not commonly compared to Jewish-American traditions. However, during the study of my jewish ancestors during sukkot 2 years ago, I realized that I found myself drawing new connections to Día de los muertos. Both Sukkot and Day of the Dead have an emphasis on remembering those who came before us. The common thread between the two fiestas is that we recognize and remember ancestors and loved ones, welcoming them back into our lives. As we celebrate Sukkot, we invite ushpizin into our sukkah, spirits that represent values and qualities of Judaism’s greatest contributors like Abraham and Sarah or Moses and Miriam, but can also be the spirits of our own family and friends. As it is a joyful harvest holiday, it is common practice to decorate the sukkah with harvest foods and artwork. Similarly, for Day of the Dead, we invite our ancestors to visit our family.
SYMBOLISM OF THE CRYPTO JEWS
Each debossed skull represents a departed soul, designed with cryptographic symbols on the forehead that honor their story and celebrate their return on Sukkot and Dia De Los Muertos. Each print is crafted on a black matte parchment, with a print press foil that offers a striking illumination to the personality of my maternal jewish roots.
The Crypto Jews Exhibition will live in artfully designed sukkah, temporary beautiful spaces near detention centers for people to ritualistically contemplate our connection to the past so that we can conspire to fight for a future of equality. I invite you to purchase any of these contemporary art pieces honoring inspiring figures in Jewish and Latinx history. All proceeds will be donated to RAICES.
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