Portraits in Charcoal

Tigist Yoseph Ron’s expressive charcoal drawings on these two pages are taken from two exhibitions: “The White Paper is Black Within” (Tel Aviv Museum of Art, February 9, 2020–October 4, 2021 Curated by Emanuela Calò) depicts portraits, events, and impressions from the Atlit Absorption Center, where the artist stayed with her family after immigrating to Israel in Operation Moses in 1984. Yoseph Ron engages with questions of identity and self-determination through an exploration of her relationship with her mother, who died when she was sixteen years old, and against the backdrop of the crisis of immigration from Ethiopia to Israel. Her engagement with the difficulties of integration into a new society and the price it entails also illuminates the stereotypes that inform the social attitude toward others. “Yayahode” (my beloved father in Amharic) is a newer series of drawings of the artist’s father. She writes: 

“Enyew Tareken was my heroic father. Me and my ten siblings called him “Yayahode”…. I received and learned from Yayahode so much that I did not think it was a problem that I did not receive expressions of affection or love from him. As one of my brothers explained, he belongs to another time and place…he didn’t say he loved, he showed he loved.

13 months of sunshine, 2023, charcoal on paper.

I also felt that he belonged to a higher kind of existence or a movement that was bigger than my earthy, emotional needs. When I was around him I felt that time and space behaved differently. In his presence my time stopped, spaces expanded and distances shortened.

At the age of 90 Yayahode weakened, suffered greatly and needed me and my siblings. More than anything it seemed to me that he needed affection, embrace and closeness. I was by his side but I could not express feelings that would relieve him in the slightest of his great suffering or engage him in honest, comforting conversations that would help him get through the empty days of inactivity. I had a real fear that crossing the barrier would spoil some important balance that he had maintained all my life. I dared to challenge this fragile balance only once, two weeks before he died. I gave him a quick kiss and a hug.”

Finely Chopping, 2020, charcoal on paper.
Self Portrait, 2015, charcoal on paper.

Mercato, 2019, charcoal on paper.