Killer Whales and Zionism
Taking a break from war-related topics... or not
As mentioned last week, I am working on a new exhibit about how animals feature in the cultural heritage of different nations. One of our messages at the Biblical Museum of Natural History is about how every nation has animals that are part of its cultural heritage - the subjects of art, stories, names of children, and so on. These are the animals that are indigenous to the lands where these cultures are from. And the animals of our Jewish heritage are the animals of the Torah - which are the animals of Biblical Israel. Accordingly, learning about the animals of Israel helps us understand our heritage better, and further illustrates our indigenous connection to the land.
To convey this concept, we printed an enormous map of the world, twelve feet wide, which we mounted on the wall. On this map, I plan to mount artifacts (and pictures of artifacts) in various countries which illustrate animals and plants playing their role in the cultural heritage of those nations.
Here’s an example of something that I will be displaying by northwest America:
This killer whale was created by Raven Wolden, from the Sts’ailes First Nation, located in S’ólh Téméxw, the Stó:lō Traditional Territory in British Colombia (and no, I’m not so knowledgeable that I could write those words; I had to “Claudine Gay” them). The carving follows traditional techniques of highly stylized representations of animals, applying them to an animal that is very prevalent along the British Colombia coast.
One question that I was grappling with was whether to include artifacts of modern colonial cultures, such as the USA, or restrict it only to indigenous peoples. In the end I decided to include modern cultures, for a few reasons.
(The rest of this post explains these reasons and gives some fascinating examples of zoological cultural art with extremely politically controversial ramifications - including regarding Israel vs. Palestinians. It is restricted to paid subscribers and museum donors, who receive a complimentary subscription. Note that subscription funds go entirely to supporting the Biblical Museum of Natural History, and if you give $180 or more, we can give you a tax receipt.)