The Key to our Future is to Know our Past
My name is Camila Niedmann and I’m a student at Instituto Hebreo in Santiago, Chile. My artwork is called “The key to our future is to know our past”.
It is composed by a base and a glass sphere on the top. At the base you can see a starry sky where every star represents one of our ancestors, as I truly believe they are stars that watch upon us from the sky.
On top of that there’s a train, which, for me, has a double meaning. On the one hand, I wanted to portray a bit of our people’s history, focusing on something that is so deeply branded in us, the Shoah, for we were taken on trains to the extermination camps. On the other hand, the train was one of the most important means of transport my family used to get to Chile and safety.
On the background of the top sphere you can see an old map with some means of transportation and different items that allowed my family to arrive in Chile: there’s a Russian passport, for my family on my mother’s side comes from Russia; there’s also a suitcase, for in it my relatives brought their belongings, some of which are still in my family; there’s a ship, for they could cross the Atlantic on their way from Europe to America on a boat; and finally, you can see a wheelbarrow of hay, for one of my great-great grandfathers managed to escape the pogroms hiding in one of them.
In the center of the sphere there’s s “tower” full of my ancestors’ photos from many years ago.
Around the sphere there are several pearls made of cold porcelain clay, that represent my grandmother Clari, who has been extremely important for me and who has lived with me and my family for the last six years. She has always been acknowledged as a very elegant woman, whose favorite accessory is a pearl necklace she wears all the time. These pearls hold the sphere, for Grandma Clari has always been an important pillar of the family. I wanted to honor her with a special place in my “family object”.
The detail that gives name to my work is a photo of me holding a key which is hanging from the train. On top of the tower of pictures there’s a lock, which I seek to reach, for when I wrote my Shorashim book I realized that the key of our families’ past remains in our hands, it is our responsibility not to forget. Moreover, I can’t go on with my future, if I don’t know where I come from.
My work was inspired by the arrival and the life of my family in Chile, in all the effort it took to get where we are now. Each one of my ancestors contributed with their grain of salt to be what we are now. It is a snow globe because I have collected them for many years and I have got them with the help of my whole family.
As I said before, the main idea I focused in was the story of my family. Having to run away from their homes and fatherland, leaving their nuclear families behind, they lost all they had. They had to arrive in a new place, without knowing the language, without resources, starting from scratch.
I connect my work with Israel, because if the State of Israel had existed in those days in which my family had to run away to survive, Israel would have been their destination and we would live there now. But having to live in the Diaspora, our great-grandparents built synagogues, they kept our traditions, and thank to that we can still call ourselves Jews.
My work speaks a lot about caring, preserving and never forgetting my family’s history, the hard times they went through and the good experiences they lived as well. As Jews, our past has to be very present so as to avoid being trashed and destroyed again, as it has occurred so many times in history, and to preserve the Jewish religion.
My ancestors are a role model to be followed, not only by me but by future generations to come. They gave everything to live better, to be free, to not hide for being Jewish; they passed onto us that we have to be proud of who we are, and above all, of being Jewish.
My work was inspired by the arrival and the life of my family in Chile, in all the effort it took to get where we are now.
Camila Neidmann participated in My Family Story 2019. My Family Story is an experiential and fun Jewish heritage program that involves Jewish youth from 30 countries around the globe. Students research their roots, conduct family interviews and use their creative skills to design original, artistic installations that capture the essence of their family history. Top entries are selected for display in an international exhibition in Memory of Manuel Hirsch Grosskopf, displayed at The Museum of the Jewish People at Beit Hatfutsot.
a person, typically one more remote than a grandparent, from whom one is descended