Ethiopian Curtain of the Ark, installation view Herzliya Museum of contemporary art, showcases 67”x63”x43”, Video,  2012
Video, Full HD, 6:46 min.
Ethiopian Curtain of the Ark (detail), see story below.
Ethiopian Curtain of the Ark (detail), see story below.
Ethiopian Curtain of the Ark (detail), see story below.
Ethiopian Curtain of the Ark (detail), see story below.
Ethiopian Curtain of the Ark (detail), see story below.
Ethiopian Curtain of the Ark (detail), see story below.
Ethiopian Curtain of the Ark (detail), see story below.
Ethiopian Curtain of the Ark (detail), see story below.
Ethiopian Curtain of the Ark (detail), see story below.
Ethiopian Curtain of the Ark (detail), see story below.
Ethiopian Curtain of the Ark (detail), see story below.
Ethiopian Curtain of the Ark (detail), see story below.
Ethiopian Curtain of the Ark (detail), see story below.
Ethiopian Curtain of the Ark (detail), see story below.
Ethiopian Curtain of the Ark (detail), see story below.
Ethiopian Curtain of the Ark (detail), see story below.
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Ethiopian Curtain of the Ark

The installation Ethiopian Curtain of the Ark features a One to One model of the Ark of the Covenant wrapped in a traditional cover. The embroidery was done at the “Almaz” factory – a traditional Ethiopian embroidery workshop based in Lod, Israel. Aviva, an Ethiopian Jew who moved to Israel in the 1980s, still feels like an immigrant, straddling two worlds. In the video, she reconstructs from memory a popular fable, originally Christian, which describes the reception the Queen of Sheba received from King Solomon, the promises made and the treaty between the nations.

The Ethiopian curtain is exhibited in the same fashion as were ritual objects and relics from distant cultures in European collections in the era of the discovery of the continents and the beginning of colonialism. These collections served two purposes: on the one hand they were intended to be beautiful and aggrandize the collector as a person with access to those same distant and exotic cultures, and on the other hand, to verify to the authenticity of the far away lands. Ethiopian Curtain, a product of our time, actually elicits doubts about authenticity: at first glance, it masquerades as an authentic Ethiopian piece, but upon deeper inspection it provokes enquiry and challenges it categorization as ethnic, national or religious. Ethiopian Curtain presents a complex and fragmented identity: an Israeli artist exhibiting with the assistance of Ethiopian craftspeople, an Ethiopian national ethos, based on the Bible of Judah.

The Love Story of the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon

In the video, the plant manager, Aviva Almaz Rachamim, tells the canonical story, while in the background embroiderers work on the curtain. Stitched onto the curtain are illustrations of the love story between the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon. According to the tale, which is describes in the Ethiopian epos “Glory of Kings,” the famous king and queen had a short romance in Jerusalem. Menelik, their son, was born in Ethiopia and eventually became the leader of the Solomon dynasty. The tale expounds that the Ark of the Covenant was abducted from the temple in Jerusalem and arrived at an Ethiopian Orthodox church.

Frame #1

An Ethiopian merchant told the Queen of Sheba about his visit with King Solomon, Jerusalem, the Temple, and the Ark of Zion.

Frame #2

The Queen longed to meet King Solomon. She hurried her servant and set out on the long journey, crossing the Red Sea.

Frame #3

They crossed the great desert, passing Mount Sinai.

Frame #4

They arrived in Jerusalem towards nightfall, and King Solomon greeted them with song and dance. He gave the Queen of Sheba a room in his palace close to his room.

Frame #5

King Solomon threw a large banquet in honor of the queen. He specifically ordered spicy and thirst-inducing food. At the end of the night, the king asked the queen to come and sleep in his bed. The queen laughed and said: “Pledge to me that you will not take me by force.” The king smiled and consented: “On condition that you yourself will not take anything from my palace”. They pledged to one another and went to bed.

Frame #6

Later that night, the queen awoke, her throat dry from the spices of the banquet. She got out of the bed and poured herself a glass of water. King Solomon abruptly grabbed her and asked: "Why do you take something from my palace?" The queen replied incredulously: "Is my pledge broken for a glass of water?" The king smiled and said: "Is there anything under the sun greater than water"? The queen released the king from his pledge, and the king also released the queen from her pledge. The queen quenched her thirst.

Frame #7

The king and queen laid and fell asleep. That night Solomon dreamt that the sun does not shine on the Kingdom of Judea. Only in the land of Ethiopia does the sun rise, and with it the splendor of the people of Israel.

Frame #8

At the break of dawn, the Queen of Sheba wished to return to her country. King Solomon was deeply saddened and offered her to rule beside him with his one thousand wives, but the queen rushed to return to her people. She did not know it, but in her womb she already carried Solomon’s child.

Frame #9

The son of the Queen of Sheba and the King of Judea was born on Ethiopian ground. Menyelek wished to see his father in Jerusalem. He decided to embark on a journey. His mother agreed only after he pledged to return to Ethiopia.

Frame #10

Menyelek packed provisions and left on the long journey to Jerusalem. First he crossed the Red Sea.

Frame #11

Then he crossed the great desert, passing Mount Sinai on which the Stone Tablets were received.

Frame #12
At nightfall, he arrived in Jerusalem and the king greeting him with song and dance.
Frame #13
King Solomon threw a big banquet in honor of his son. Wise Solomon suggested: “We will have two kingdoms, the first in Judea and the second in Ethiopia. I shall send with you the first-born sons of the chief priests as they know the laws and the rulings”. Menyelek happily agreed and Solomon presented him with a replica of the Holy Ark of the Covenant.
Frame #14

The high priest’s son could not sleep as he wondered how he could possibly leave behind the Ark of Our Lady of Zion. He left his bed, stole the key from his father, called the other first born sons, broke into the Holy of Holies, and stole the Ark. The first born sons replaced the Ark with the replica, covered it with the Curtain, and quickly left.

Frame #15
The Ark illuminated their way until morning rose.
Frame #16
With the break of dawn, King Solomon bid them farewell and was deeply saddened. With Menyelek, the Ark had made the long journey to Ethiopia.