To celebrate Pesach (English: Passover), we commissioned some children from Massada College to paint ceramic plates on the theme of the 10 plagues. The plates were then glazed and fired. When Pharaoh ignored warnings by Moses to free the Jewish people from enslavement in Egypt, G-d sent Ten Plagues to force Pharaoh to comply.
4. Wild beasts
10. Killing of the 1st born
The idea of painting on a plate, as opposed to paper or canvas, is linked to the Pesach seder (meal) that entails the ritual of eating special foods with symbolic meaning. It also relates to the traditional Seder plate on which symbolic food items are placed. These are a roasted neck/shank bone, a hard-boiled egg, charoset, karpas, matzah and marror. There is a symbolic reason for each item, for instance, eating the marror (bitter herbs) is to remember the bitter life suffered in Egyptian slavery, and the charoset (a mixture of nuts, wine & apples) represents the mortar and cement used in labouring under Egyptian slavery.
Whereas the Seder plate reminds Jews that they were slaves in a foreign land 3000 years ago, the plates painted by the children are more than just a reminder of the punishment inflicted upon the Egyptians, but a reminder of the importance of passing down the knowledge of this event to younger generations.
I would like to thank Allen Bolaffi for sponsoring the project, and the children for their creative response to the 10 plagues, producing artifacts that will form part of the Adelaide Jewish Museum collection. R Sugarman March 2002
Reuben interpreted the first plague imposed on the Egyptians, that of ‘blood’ and shows how it affected the water in Egypt, where the rivers flowed with blood. Here, an unsuspecting Egyptian goes down to the river to collect water in a vessel. The words blood and Hebrew dam are as if written in blood.
In this novel design, all 10 plagues are represented by name in Hebrew script. The border features a beautiful decorative repetition of Egyptian faces and headgear in typical Egyptian-style profile. It also lends a sense of movement as the figures move around the edge.
Dani painted a profusion of lively well-fed ‘frogs’; one frog has even attached itself to Pharaoh’s face. At the back of the plate she has painted a giant version of the frog.
Hannah chose to portray the plague of ‘wild beasts’. The lion and snake seem almost camouflaged in the desert environment. Another wild beast attacks an unfortunate Egyptian.
Jarron was asked to depict both ‘lice’ and ‘pestilence’. He divided the plate, on one half showing the death of the cattle (pestilence) and on the other half, a humorous depiction of a man scratching himself as a result of a plague of lice.
Liat illustrated someone with ‘boils’, so badly stricken with the plague that they have been bedridden. Hundreds of faces with boils decorate the border, aesthetically making reference to Aboriginal dot paintings
In this picturesque scene, Georgia depicts with intricate detail a profusion of ‘locusts’, some waiting to hatch, some of which have already landed on the figure of the unhappy man. She also painted the ‘hail’ plate, where hail is raining down inside Pharaoh’s home as he sits on his throne. Setting the scene further, through the window one can see the pyramids.
Without aid or visual stimulation from an adult, Claudia, age 5, imagines three Egyptian women saddened and overcome by the plague of ‘darkness’. Stars in the sky allude to a bit of hope and light.
Jordana painted the end result of the 10 plagues, the miracle of the Red Sea parting and opening up to allow the Jews to pass through and escape the charging Egyptians. Moses is seen in the center of the image with his staff, in the act of initiating the miracle.
A high school student was commissioned to paint the difficult subject of the ‘killing of the first born’. Kendyl handled this theme sensitively and symbolically. The innocence of the baby is seen in the sucking of the thumb. The heart in a coffin is a literal symbol of death. Crying eyes emphasize the sadness of the tragic consequences of the 10th and final plague.