Seven Generations

The Seven Generations Project

Seven Generations is a photography and video installation created by Avishai Mekonen that offers a view into an ancient Ethiopian Jewish tradition that is grounded in the past but keeps an eye to the future.

This project creates a living commentary on the contemporary state of Ethiopian Jews’ assimilation juxtaposed against what is being lost with the passing of older generations. The ritual of counting seven generations of ancestry ensures generational continuity and that Ethiopian Jewish history will not be lost.

When two people want to get married, the elders of the community count each person’s family history back seven generations to check that they are not related. If there is any relation, they are not allowed to get married.

The stories of legendary Ethiopian Jews like the kessim (rabbis), as well as stories of all ancestors, were preserved in this way. Portraits and documentary-style photographs spanning the youngest to the eldest generations of Ethiopians Jews, alongside companion sound recordings of their counting, praying, and music create a visual and aural portrait of this powerful tradition.

Seven Generations was created by Avishai Mekonen as a project of the Six Points Fellowship for Emerging Jewish Artists, a partnership of Avoda Arts, JDub Records and the Foundation for Jewish Culture and is made possible with major funding from UJA-Federation of New York.

Speakers Bureau: Avishai Mekonen is available to speak and/or present his photographs and video in a variety of different formats. Click here for more information, or call 415.386.2604.
About Avishai Mekonen

Yeganyahu Avishai Mekonen emigrated from Ethiopia to Israel in 1984 as part of Operation Moses, and has worked as a photographer and filmmaker on projects investigating issues of race and identity.

In collaboration with Be’chol Lashon, a section of Avishai Mekonen and Shari Rothfarb’s documentary film project, “Judaism and Race,” is part of “The Jewish Identity Project: New American Photography” that originated at the Jewish Museum, NYC, and has traveled to the Skirball Museum, L.A. and the Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco. The documentary film, now called “400 Miles to Freedom,” is in post production.

His award-winning documentary work has been broadcast on Israel’s Channel 1 and has screened at many festivals in Israel, Europe, and the US, including the Tel Aviv Cinemateque, the Jerusalem Cinemateque, Haifa Jewish Film Festival, Makor, and the International Competition Documentary Festival, Czech Republic.

He has lectured on the subject of Ethiopian Jews in the U.S. and in Israel both independently and through the NY Israeli Consulate. He holds a B.A. in Fine Arts from Tel Chai College of Haifa University/Hebrew University.

Seven Generations Photo Gallery

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