Rami Meir: "Baku is happy city in my life"
Israeli artist Rami Meir's personal exhibition "The History of One People - for the Whole World" opened at the State Museum of Oriental Art in Moscow. Within its framework, paintings and wooden sculptures dedicated to the Mountain Jews of the Caucasus and Transcaucasia of the late 19th - early 20th centuries are presented. Rami Meir told Vestnik Kavkaza about his roots and their influence on his creativity.
- You are from Azerbaijan - how has it influenced your work?
- Yes, I was born in Baku and am proud of it. The Azerbaijani culture is multinational and very friendly. It was not for nothing that up to 38 nationalities lived in Baku, and we were all friends and sometimes did not know the nationality of our friends. There have never been any difficulties on grounds of ethnicity. I adore this cosmopolitan Baku and consider it the most beautiful city. Those who have been to Baku will understand what I am talking about - it has wonderful, delightful architecture. Baku taught us to live, love and respect our customs. No one forbade others to adhere to their customs there, for example, no one reproached me for being a Mountain Jew.
Baku is a happy city in my life, and I am glad that I was born there. Every child born in Baku speaks at least three languages. We all knew Russian and Azerbaijani, as well as our native language - Jewish, Armenian, Tatar, Georgian. Baku people never ceased to amaze me with their rich culture and knowledge.
- How did you come up with the idea to make a series of paintings about Mountain Jews?
- This is a tribute to my origins and ancestors. The series was born in memory of how our ancestors, Mountain Jews lived, how they dressed. The goal of showing the true picture was strictly observed. I am glad that I was fortunate enough to be one of the first to have the courage to describe Mountain Jews. When I started this work, I did not think that anyone would be interested in this topic, I painted for myself. When Italians and Russians became interested in the paintings, I was surprised. I made this work for myself, and I am glad to have the opportunity to show it to others.
I am grateful to the State Museum of Oriental Art and all members of this large family who have been working here for decades. I respect their work.
- How did you find the vintage postcards that you used in your works?
- For many years I visited Vernissage, where one can find anything, and asked about everything with Mountain Jews. I discovered an interesting detail: the most expensive postcards are postcards with Mountain Jews, because this is a rare material that is very difficult to find. The first print is postcards of 1857, I bought them for 15-20 thousand rubles, although other postcards of the same year may cost only 150 rubles. These postcards are no longer on the market today, only reprints, since now collectors have the originals - and I am proud that I have some originals that I have been collecting for 25 years.
- What are the national peculiarities of Mountain Jews?
- All peoples have originality and dignity. Mountain Jews, according to our holy books, have such a phrase - "love the people that live with you, and respect its laws." This is what the Mountain Jews do: wherever they were, they were very peaceful and absorbed the culture of the local people. Therefore, any Mountain Jew knows the culture of Azerbaijan and everyone in fluent in Azerbaijani language. And this makes our culture richer. The most important thing in the culture of Mountain Jews for me is the wisdom brought from the depths of centuries - they have something to say and something to share, and this can be interesting and instructive to many people.