The Book of Yona


These artworks blend the coming-to-America stories of Katarzyna’s and Yona’s lives with that of the biblical prophet Jonah / Yona. The art touches on issues of identity, conversion, immigration, and heritage. Some of the works feature “augmented reality” images, visible on the viewer’s smart phone.

The Times of Israel, Oct 7, 2017: ...Yona Verwer and Katarzyna Kozera’s take on the Book of Jonah, a pivotal moment for Verwer as a Jew who converted from Catholicism and left her home in the Netherlands for New York. Her Jonah is in a submarine in New York’s East River, and she takes that up another notch with augmented reality, having viewers use smartphone or tablets to hone in on a spot in the painting, which triggers a video embedded in the artwork, leading the viewer closer to the layered narrative.”

More info below the images.

Click on the images to enlarge.


Interactive art project with artist Katarzyna Kozera

Contact Magazine (Steinhardt Foundation) writes:

“... Her most recent installation, in collaboration with Polish-born artist Katarzyna Kozera, culminates years of probing the passageways between cultures and continents. A play on her name and the Biblical figure of Jonah, “The Book of Yona” transposes the Biblical whale to a submarine charting the Atlantic and arriving in New York’s East River. The submergence of the submarine also serves as metaphor for immersion in the mikveh as part of the conversion process.

The paintings are interactive, accompanied by images and videos accessible via smartphones to offer additional layers and gleanings that enhance the viewing experience: The artist as a toddler submerged in water and as an adult at a New York shoreline, interspersed with Hebrew passages from The book of Jonah. Taken together, the multimedia series grapples with issues of identity, upheaval, migration, renewal, and personal and collective encounters with Judaism as it charts two women’s paths from old worlds to new.”

Full article here.

About the art series “Book of Yona”:

This series blends the immigrant stories of Katarzyna Kozera and myself with the biblical story of Jonah the prophet.

They echo my own journey from Europe to New York, from  Catholicism to Judaism. Conversion requires ritual immersion, a total submersion of the body in a pool of water, to symbolize a change-of-soul. The water symbolizes birth as a Jew. In these paintings these “living” waters are New York’s East River.

In some of the works one sees my own eyes above. Ori Z. Soltes wrote: ...”a contemporary underwater fish (a submarine) and the Brooklyn Bridge below; her story embedded beneath the immediately visible surface—and Katarzyna’s parallel journey from Poland to New York”. 

The embedded videos, accessible to the viewer by Ipad or smartphone, add another dimension to this narrative.

The biblical story is about second chances, forgiveness, and redemption; humanity matters more than abstractions. Jonah's journey is our journey.

Rabbi Steven Bob, from his book “Jonah and the meaning of our lives”:

We always want a second chance. We’d like everybody we did us wrong to give us another chance, but are we willing to give others a second chance? Not simply forgiving the people who wronged us, but trusting them again in circumstances in which they had previously disappointed us.....”

“Nineveh raises broader questions: How do we view people different from ourselves?...”

“Do we sometimes look at “others” as threatening? Can we accept that people of other religious communities can be in a proper relationship with the same God we serve, even though they use different images and tell different stories about that God’s connection to humanity?”

More about the biblical book of Yonah here.

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