Pittsburgh visual artist Diane Samuels is on a journey. She asks, “What is home?”
Samuels was selected by the American Academy in Jerusalem to participate in a 10-week program that gave her the opportunity to conduct research within the city. Her journey lasted from Oct. to Dec. of last year.
“They didn’t really even want us to actually complete a project in the time we were there,” said Samuels. “They simply wanted us to focus on gathering information.”
Samuels was intrigued by maps and the edges of cities, and found different versions of maps marked out slightly different boundary lines for Israel.
“As I noticed this, I thought to myself, ‘What would it be like to live in a country where you don’t know edges?’” said Samuels.
Samuels decided that she would sit in a public place- the Three Arches YMCA- and ask anyone who was willing to chat about what they think of home.
While Samuels waited for passerby to stop and chat, she transcribed the poetry of both an Israeli poet and a Palestinian poet, one on each side of handmade parchment. “I loved writing the poetry really slowly and savoring the words,” she said.
In a place where peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis is still being accomplished, Samuels encountered some interesting responses to her question. One woman said, “I am my own home. Where I walk, where I sit is my home.”
Samuels also said that many of the citizens of Israel have dual citizenship, so that they have the opportunity to live somewhere else in case Israel ceases to exist.
“Many people wear the key to their childhood home, or a map of their neighborhood around their necks,” said Samuels. “They have their feet in one place, but they are bouncing off another.”
In total, Samuels estimated that she talked to about 200 people who represented 19 different languages. While she has not yet defined home for herself, she says “It’s definitely not a building or physical space.”
Samuels’ visit to campus was part of World Week, something that Keisha Jimmerson, Director of Intercultural Services, came up with four years ago. It is an opportunity for Seton Hill students to learn about different regions of the world.
“It is important because we are interconnected to everyone,” said Jimmerson. “The world is not just Seton Hill University and southwestern Pennsylvania. In your life you will meet and build relationships with a variety of people.”
Other events celebrated during World Week included coffee talks on various intercultural topics, food sampling from different regions, poster boards displaying various popular sports around the world and lectures on Latin American and African literature.
Jimmerson noted that being intercultural was a reflection of what the Sisters of Charity envisioned many years ago when founding the university.
“They [Sisters of Charity] believed everyone should have an education,” said Jimmerson. “They also believed that our differences should be celebrated.”