Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Camp Sabra Hamsa Mural

Hamsa Mural ©2009 Michael B. Schwartz/ Camp Sabra

Camp Sabra is located midway between St. Louis and Kansas City, Missouri at the beautiful Lake of the Ozarks. Their peninsula sits on the Gravois arm of the lake, near Eldon, Mo. This is a very special place and community. My partner Jodi Netzer and I arrived late on a Thursday. The next day we were greeted at meal time by the entire camp with a welcome cheer. This is a very spirited camp that likes to sing, dance and create.

As people came up and introduced themselves I explained that I was here to lead a mural. It was easy to solicit ideas for the project and I invited campers to be a part of the process. As these conversations developed I created a series of sketches of a Hamsa. After priming the boards I worked with a group of campers sketching the flora and fauna all around us in our journals. We practiced the art of observation drawing, prepared color charts and experimented with the paints we mixed. The color theme of the mural revolves around purples and yellows, when mixed we get beautiful shades of gold. We selected the best images from our drawings and transferred them to the mural with charcoal and paint.

On the third day of the project the camp took the cautious step of closing after several students fell ill. Jodi and I found ourselves alone in camp, but determined to finish the project. We wanted campers to return to a beautiful, powerful and protective image.

The Hamsa, with five fingers like the books of the Torah, was the perfect image. Above are seven red strands, with images of the camp in the background. The history and meaning of these ancient symbols can have many meanings and interpretations, but all include reference to protection and health. For example some say the seven red threads can relieve pain and protect one from the evil eye.

The string’s meaning is based on a connection to Rachel, one of Judaism’s four matriarchs. For centuries, Jews have tied on their wrists red string that’s been wrapped around Rachel’s tomb in the West Bank. The red strings also refer to our connection to our ancestors, and calling upon them to assist in our protection.

The mural was created on panels that were then placed adjacent to the entrance of the dining hall. We worked to the last minute, installing each panel, sealing edges, touching up every detail and finally putting a protective sealer on the work.

We had accomplished our goal of creating a mural that would serve not only as a source of healing and protection, but a gift for returning campers.

On Monday after 10 days at the camp we had to push on to the next scheduled project. We hope to return Camp Sabra next summer to create another mural for the rest of the entrance of the dining hall. We were honored to share in the spirit and history of the camp and so warmly welcomed that we now also feel a part of this place.

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