Haidi Motola. Esperia III: Haifa: Umm al-Gharib

Haidi Motola. Esperia III: Haifa: Umm al-Gharib




12:00 – 16:00


few clouds

Photographic Gallery Hippolyte

Haidi Motola interweaves a past from the pieces she found when rummaging through the dusty attic of her grandfather Jacques’ apartment in the days following his death. Among hundreds of his paintings, pictures, letters, and documents lying in containers, and boxes deposited there for decades, also laid a suitcase containing a small treasure. It was an invitation to the 1947 exhibition of the Palestinian-Lebanese artist Maroun Tomb. It opened in Haifa on November 29, the very day the UN voted on the Partition Plan of Palestine, igniting a war and the events that would later become known as the Nakba (catastrophe in Arabic) culminating in the expulsion of roughly half of the indigenous Palestinian population.

Shortly after the exhibition, Tomb and his entire family were forced into exile and never allowed to return. At 37 years old, Tomb was torn from his life as he previously knew it, with nearly his entire body of work left behind, including the oil paintings presented at the exhibition only a few months before.

The invitation and correspondence between Tomb and Motola’s grandfather led her to search for past connections between the two – a Palestinian-Arab and a Jew – in pre-Israel Palestine, in an era that was the precipice to catastrophe – and what implications and ramifications might exist today. This quest brought together the granddaughters of the two artists 75 years after their friendship was severed.

Haifa: Umm al-Gharib is the third part of Motola’s Esperia project and is now presented at Hippolyte gallery for the first time. The exhibition consists of a two-channel video installation and printed images showcasing the works of both Jacques Motola and Maroun Tomb from the 1940s. Umm al-Gharib, Arabic for Mother of Strangers, was colloquially used by Palestinians as a nickname for Haifa, echoing its openness to the cultural diversity of immigrants.

Each part of Esperia delves into another chapter in the life of Haidi Motola’s grandfather, and revolves around memories of different cities. The first part, Last Day in Cairo, portrays the events of a single day in Cairo in 1954 as they unfold through the personal story of 97 year-old Jacques Motola, who introspects his life from the perspective of old age.

In the second part, À Découvrir Post-Mortem, which revolves around the city of Marseille, Motola tries to construct a coherent narrative of her late, holocaust surviving grandmother, Eugenya. Using old forgotten letters, documents, and photographs, and with the help of her 98 year-old grandfatherthe second part navigates the maze of Eugenya’s distant history and more recent past through the cities of Nazi-occupied Lwów (now Lviv, Ukraine), post-war Marseille and present-day Tel Aviv. The distinct parts of Esperia explore how memory, the broader historical context and personal identity converge and become intertwined.

Haidi Motola (b. 1982, Haifa) is a photographer, visual artist, filmmaker, and a member of the Activestills photo collective. She completed her MFA at the Time and Space department of the Finnish Academy of Fine Arts and previously studied photography and cinema at the Minshar and Camera Obscura art schools in Tel Aviv. Her most recent work, Esperia, is an in-progress short film tetralogy that shifts between the documentary and the artistic, the reflexive and the expressive, to explore themes of memory, identity, and storytelling.

Esperia III: Haifa: Umm al-Gharib was produced with the support of the Olga and Vilho Linnamo Foundation, Avek, and the Oskar Öflund Foundation.

Special thanks to: the granddaughter of Maroun Tomb, Daniel Motola (filming and sound editing), Jonathan Pollak, Mazen Kopty, Motola family. 

In memory of the artist Jacques Motola.

Thu 05 Jan 2023 – 29 Jan 2023 12:00 – 16:00


few clouds

Yrjönkatu 8-10,
00120 Helsinki, Finland