MELLAH

2017 - site specific installation and performance

“Mellah” is a project created for Paris and its citizens. It is the creation of a symbolic, intimate and common space where the private memory of Moroccan Jews who emigrated to Paris is activated and shared.

In Morocco the jewish quarter is called Mellah, an hebrew word that means salt as reference to the first moroccan ghetto that was built above an old salt mine in Fès. The space of a ghetto is always define by surrounding walls. In this context, to build some walls of salt to define a space is like to recreate a Mellah; to work with the salt is like working with history.
During the 50’s and 70’s, most of the jews left Morocco in a silent migration to Paris, Montreal and Israel, of which there is no collective memory. For seven days, every day at the same time, a different witness was seated on a chair in front of me, between two salt walls. I asked every time the same three questions to start a dialogue between me and the witness, between the moroccan jewish community and the audience, Paris and this forgotten migration.
It became a regular practice for the visitors that came back more than one time to ask new questions, to listen to a different tale on the same history. The dialogues took out as main topics the peculiar and “peaceful” relationship between jews and muslim in Morocco, the role of education as a power for emancipation and the nostalgia for an ideal place in the memory, quite different from the real one.

 

Photo documentation by Alice Delva & Keith Leung