My Memory Suitcases (text)

My Memory Suitcases are part of an ongoing series investigating the subject of memory: personal and shared or collective memory; processes and techniques of memorizing and recollecting; and the relationship between memory and imagination. The series is also about denial and forgetting.

I took my suitcases on a photographic voyage around Israel in an old VW van, collecting with my camera some of the many stories left lying by the side of the road.

Some of the images ‘imprinted’ on the suitcases, such as that of the tree house, echo childhood memories of Israel in the early 60s, memories common to a whole generation born before the Six Day War. In a related series, Memory Vans, shared memories – some of them resonating for people of many cultures – are also evoked by objects inside the suitcases; for example, a 1930 photograph of my grandfather at the grave of Zionist hero Joseph Trumpeldor. Personal memories may be revealed or hinted at by an open or closed suitcase.

Several of the suitcase images are of abandoned houses once belonging to Palestinian Arabs who escaped or were evacuated during the 1948 and 1967 wars. Some of the houses have remained untouched and decaying ever since; others have been inhabited by Jews who immigrated to Israel following the Second World War; others still are being converted into exclusive modern homes. All bear testimony to a far-from-remote history that we Israelis may try to forget, ignore or erase. Meanwhile, many Palestinians keep the keys to these houses, just as mementos, or in the hope of returning.

A suitcase is perhaps the most potent and familiar image associated with migration, and for many different peoples an icon of wandering and displacement.

Yuval Yairi

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