The members of Jewish Artists Collective Chicago write about our stories, struggles, experiences, and musings, and how they inspire us to create contemporary Jewish art.
Art and Text by Berit Engen
December month is here again, sneaking up on me as climate changes confuse my memory. I am looking for snow, white and quiet, as the snow we had on December 6th in 1987. That is when Sinikka (“Little Blue”) was born. She was our first child, and she lived only nine days.
Today it is 33 years ago, and as in past years I hope nature will help me remember. The problem is that there are, except for one split second, no good memories, so I have buried them deep. I feel a physical pain, a reminder of instincts that were forced to be cut off and not allowed to fulfill their purpose.
The experience forced my husband and me to face the dilemma of not being connected to an organized religion in a time of mourning, and therefore having to invent our own rituals.
In 2008 and 2010 I wove this series of ten tapestries called “Kaddish for Sinikka – The Comfort of Rituals.” They tell the story from labor pains and confusion to saying Kaddish, a span of several years.
(Tapestries are woven with linen yarn; all are 9 in tall.)
?,!,??,!!! . . . ?
When labor pains started three months before my due date, it was clear that something was wrong. In the hospital, no medications could stop the birth.
Merciful Father, God full of compassion – why my womb?
The translation does not convey the brutal irony of the Hebrew title. Every Hebrew verb, as well as many nouns, are derived from a consonant root which has a specific meaning. The original meaning of the root resh, chet, mem is uncertain, but both ‘womb’ and ‘compassion’ are derived from this root, thus connected in concept.
Moment and Eternity
. . . and Every December Thereafter
Kaddish for Little Blue