Say Shibboleth! On Visible and Unvisible Borders

  • photography
  • art
  • history
  • film/video
  • contemporary art
  • community

Despite talk about globalization and the international community, new border fences and walls are being erected all over the world—around states, occupied territories, and gated communities, between public and private spaces, between the legal and the illegal. Some of these borders are permeable and others fatal, some are visible and others reinforced by cultural codes, language tests, or biometric methods. Borders decide about life and death, “identity” and “otherness,” belonging and exclusion.

“And the Gileadites took the fords of the Jordan against the Ephraimites; and it was so, that when any of the fugitives of Ephraim said: Let me go over, the men of Gilead said unto him: Art thou an Ephraimite? If he said: Nay; then said they unto him: Say now “Shibboleth” and he said “Sibboleth”; for he could not frame to pronounce it right; then they laid hold on him, and slew him at the fords of the Jordan; and there fell at that time of Ephraim forty and two thousand.” (Judges 12:5–6)

Starting from the biblical story of the Ephraimites’ escape from the victorious Gileadites and their slaughter on the banks of the River Jordan, the Jewish Museum Munich has invited international artists to critically reflect upon borders around the world.