Tali Goodfriend uses her art to build bridges between cultures

allison martens

Tali Goodfriend’s brother, Ari Pearlmutter, was 19 years old when he was killed by a suicide bomber 11 years ago. He appears with her in this piece, entitled Memorial. Photo courtesy of Tali Goodfriend.

Since the death of her brother in a suicide bombing in Israel 11 years ago, Tali Goodfriend has used her art to kindle peaceful dialogue and foster understanding about the conflict in the Middle East.

“I used art to learn about myself as well as to heal, and realized how lucky I am to live in Canada. But with that privilege comes responsibility.”

Goodfriend, who was born in the U.S. but moved to Israel at age five, will receive her MA in Art Education. She said Israel was a very different place when she was growing up there in the 1960s.

She grew up with the Bedouin tribe that lived close to her community. “They were my friends. I didn’t see the Arabs as being different than me. There was no prejudice. That’s not the case today.”

Goodfriend was inspired by programs in Israel that bring together Arab and Jewish students. In 2004, she helped stage an exhibition of photographs they made of one another’s homes at the Saidye Bronfman gallery.

She is active in two Montreal groups which promote peaceful dialogue between the communities. A collaboration between them produced Meeting in the Middle, an exhibit that was featured on CBC.

Goodfriend contributed a triptych (one the pieces is at left) to the show. Each piece contained photographs and various objects, such as one of her son’s toy motorcycles. Her brother loved to speed around on the real thing.

An airplane and a swatch of red velvet—which appear on the berets worn by Israeli paratroopers—recall the military service he was carrying out at the time of his death.

In addition to contributing to cultural understanding, “it was to remember my brother, but also to move forward.” She added that faculty members’ support proved invaluable.

Some of her work has also provoked much discussion, such as her mezuzahs — small cases containing parchment with scripture — in the form of a woman. She also changed the Hebrew prayer inside, from the masculine to the feminine tense.

“It was risqué in that way. For me, it was about how to rework it as a reflection on who I am in contemporary society.”

Before starting her MA, Goodfriend worked for 20 years in early childhood education. She will return to her job at Vanier College and will continue her work with peacebuilding groups in Canada and the Middle East.