December 2017 / Motherlands by Rela Mazali in 'Messages from Israel: Violence and Female Values', Shira Richter / Part III

ART, RESEARCH, THEORY: In November 2016 the column space was passed on to Shira Richter, a mother, artist, activist, film maker and educator from Israel, to curate three editions of the m/other voices monthly columns on the topic of the 'maternal' and the 'politics of everyday life' from her particular, situated, feminist maternal perspective of mothering twin sons in Israel. In the first edition of 'Messages from Israel', Richter brought us her interview with Dr. Andrea O'Reilly, entitled 'Motherhood; a Liability or Crime?' In the second edition, on Valentines Day 2017, she brought us her continued and ongoing investigation into patriarchal structures and mother work, in her article  Mary - The Mother Whose Son Preached Feminine Values  and the accompanying video interview with Dr. James F. Gilligan. In the third edition, Shira Richter introduces us to the world and work of Rela Mazali, a feminist artist, activist, scholar, mother, daughter and grandmother living in Israel. 

m/other voices thank's Shira Richter for her tireless work of re-imagining the world from a feminist maternal perspective and Rela Mazali for her graceful and generous contribution to the ongoing conversation unfolding on the virtual pages of the m/other voices foundation. 


Rela Mazali, image courtesy of Shira Richter.

Rela Mazali, image courtesy of Shira Richter.

My chosen guest writer for this column is Rela Mazali, one of Israel's pioneer feminist writers and scholars, an artist mother, feminist activist for human rights and gun control. For me Rela is a mentor, teacher, role model, inspiration, and friend. Several times she 'took me in from the cold' when I was feeling like a crazy minority, and 'covered' me with a warm welcoming blanket of intellectual validation and respect. She knows what it is to be a feminist woman artist scholar, daughter mother and grandmother, seeker and outsider in one's own society. She knows what it is to be the unpopular one who questions the structures both around and inside of us.  She knows how it feels to forge new paths, with little support. Her writing style is one of the first I encountered which bravely challenges the structures of form, rhythm, space, voice, perspective and subject matter. She always asks who gains and who suffers from a situation, and what blind spots are we missing? Being one of the few brave women artists who openly admits the inherent exploitation systems existing, even amongst us well meaning maternal feminists, Rela belongs to a generation which paved and keeps paving the road for us. I want to thank Dr. Hadara Sheflan Katsav who curated my work and wrote her PhD on Mother Artists, for introducing me to Rela. It is important to mention the Mother Scholar lineage.  

                                                                                                          -Shira Richter


  mother lands

Rela Mazali


tectonic activity


Original ink drawing by the author [Rela Mazali] Scanned from  my book : 'Maps of Women’s Goings and Stayings',Stanford University Press, 2001, p. 273.

Original ink drawing by the author [Rela Mazali]
Scanned from my book: 'Maps of Women’s Goings and Stayings',Stanford University Press, 2001, p. 273.

When she left it the world shifted. Ancient glaciers collapsed silently off the far edges of my peripheral vision, dropped out of sight without preview fanfare. Uncharted infrastructure, in place since the beginning of the world, dissolved. A fulcrum dislodged.

mymother is a dark, large, largely undifferentiated landmass, spilling off of and beyond the side and bottom of cartography. From sites outside the navigable territory of my living, the landmass protrudes. Into and around and below, underpinning upholding underlying undertowing underwriting undergrounding undervalued undermining under current. Then mymother stops. Is the ink-line her death or my disengagement? 

Below my living she is a given. A taken. For granted. Was.


 /* Style Definitions */
	{mso-style-name:"Table Normal";
	mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt;
	font-family:"Times New Roman";
    Front cover, ' Maps of Women’s Goings and Stayings',   Stanford University Press, 2001.  Jacket illustration: Rela Mazali,  First visit .

Front cover, 'Maps of Women’s Goings and Stayings', Stanford University Press, 2001. Jacket illustration: Rela Mazali, First visit.



I almost always knew that I wanted to write
I didn’t always know that I wanted to mother
equally, I didn’t know that I could non-mother
that option wasn’t even available enough to be “out of the question”
it was literally out of the question
mothering was inexorable, “what you did.”
the only available question was “when?”

When the ‘when’ and my first living baby arrived, I didn’t and couldn’t have anticipated the flashflood consuming enormity. Instantaneous inexplicable overpowering love.
And equally
I didn’t and couldn’t have anticipated the flashflood consuming enormity. Terrifying hugely expanded vulnerability. Unabating. The space I occupied in the world instantaneously engulfed an added body mass of tangible, acute vulnerability. Mine.

One of the main risks to that vulnerable new being, as modern patriarchy has taught me well and as mymother reiterated, repeated, inculcated and embodied, was is its mother. myself as risk to mychild, mymothering as dangerous. treacherous, tricky.

writermother introduces specific risks to her children, unique dangers on top of the familiar ones, the widely publicized threats of failures at mothering or downright bad mothering. 

At a point that I can’t place chronologically, one or each or all of my children either told me or let me know or somehow let it be known that heshethey didn’t want to be in my writing. Could be, it was less categorical. More along the lines of not necessarily wanting or liking to be. Could be it was more me than them, intimating sensibilities, sensitivities, individualities, irritations, rights. Theirs. Their own people – even if young ones. Owed their own privacy. Owed my respect. Owed my silence. Entitled to non-exposure in public, in writing, in my writing. One way or another, when the older two of my three children were still fairly young, I stopped assuming any sweeping authorization to write about mymothering them.

Unauthorized, I still did it.