Ben Uri collection

Maternal Torah

Artist information

Name Jacqueline Nicholls (1971-)

Born Nottingham, England

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Artist and educator Jacqueline Nicholls was born in 1971 in Nottingham and currently lives in London. Her work explores traditional Jewish concepts in non-traditional ways, using drawing, print, embroidery, textiles and clothing. She initially studied architecture, followed by Fine Art at the Byam Shaw School; London College of Printing, and the Prince of Wales Drawing School.

Object Details

Date 2008

Object type sculpture

Medium sinamay (lightweight millinery fabric)

Materials and techniques sinamay (medium)

Unframed 60 x 40 x 22 cm

Acquisition presented by the artist 2008

Accession number 2009-23

Display status On display in 'The Female Side of God', 30 April - 8 October 2017, the Jewish Museum Hohenems in collaboration with the Jewish Museum Frankfurt

Jacqueline Nicholls was one of the exhibitors in Schmatte Couture (2008), curated for Ben Uri at the Rivington Gallery, Shoreditch by contemporary artist Sarah Lightman, featuring 16 international contemporary artists dealing with issues surrounding clothing, memory, gender and identity. The location in Rivington Street was particularly apt as a once thriving centre where sweatshops employed waves of first generation immigrant communities – in turn, Jewish, Indian and Bangladeshi.

Maternal Torah (Torat Imecha), together with Nicholls’ related work, The Yeshiva Inside (Yeshiva Bifnim), merges the forms of a corset and a Sefer Torah (scroll) cover. Jewish tradition sees the Torah as a feminine object. These corset/Torah hybrids explore this concept by highlighting the womanly aspects of the cover, as well as the beauty and constraints of Halacha (Jewish Law). The Yeshiva Inside is a ‘pregnant’ Sefer Torah cover, inspired by a Talmudic passage that describes a foetus being taught Torah in the womb; at birth, forgetting what it has learnt, it spends its life trying to remember. In the work, the mother’s body has been transformed into a primal place of personal revelation.

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© Jacqueline Nicholls