Thomas Kampe

One Lost Stone

Artistic Director Thomas Kampe reflects further on the project.

The persecution and expulsion of the Jews of the Iberian Peninsula marks the beginning of a modern globalised world, when rivalries between empire-building European powers began struggling for dominance. The enforced culture of Crypto-Judaism, emerging from centuries of relentless terrorising of Jews by Catholics in Spain and Portugal, leaves us with difficult histories of Jewish assimilation and survival. The Sephardi Diaspora and the arrival of Sephardim in England and Britain tell stories of pain, confusion, anxiety, betrayal, solidarity, hope and renewal.

Beyond the traditional narratives
As artists, we have the means and sensitivities to re-imagine and re-embody the stories of the marginalised. As historians, we offer nuanced interpretations of hidden histories at a moment when the English and British histories of ‘The Great and The Good’ – mainly the white, wealthy and male – are being scrutinised. One Lost Stone goes further than traditional narratives by revealing the diversity of journeys and cultures that shape the fabric of current British Sephardi heritage. Jews from Arab cultures, also known as Mizrahi, are also a crucial part of our study. This is revealed through Ronen Kozokaro’s inspiring sound compositions and the oral histories of Sephardi immigrants living in England today.

My own position as a white privileged male – and a German-European immigrant in this country – has been troubling. The entanglements of Sephardi merchants with the beginnings of the building of a British Empire in the seventeenth century – from Cromwell to William III; the involvement of Sephardim in the colonialisation of the Caribbean, evidenced in the birthplaces inscribed on numerous gravestones in the Novo Cemetery: these are nauseatingly close to the narratives used by Nazi antisemitic ideologues to construct a myth of Anglo-Judaic world domination.

Reframing a reluctant heritage
Such antisemitic narratives are still potent as global fantasies for extreme right political movements on the rise. These lies must be exposed and resisted. These stories caused me to ask, ‘How can I even begin to work on such project and engage with the complexities of historical entanglement?’ The sensitive dialogue with my collaborators as writers and co-creators – Julia Pascal, Ronen Kozokaro, Stéphane Goldstein and others – enabled us to navigate through what the artist Richard White refers to as a ‘reluctant heritage’.

Unbeknownst to me, Sephardim were already part of my own life before this project started. I collect guitars and, looking to find an instrument builder to repair one, I went to the workshop of Haim Agranati in North London. There he shared stories of the Alhambra and of his ancestors in Muslim Granada. With Haim I discovered a shared friendship with London-based musician/composer Ronen Kozokaro, who brought his knowledge of Mizrahi and Eastern-Sephardi cultures to this project.

A central influence on my own work is philosopher Edgar Morin, born in 1921 as Edgar Nahoum. Morin’s family emigrated to France from Salonika in Ottoman Greece at the turn of the twentieth century. Morin asks us to celebrate ‘the genius of diversity’ in embodied, affective and poetic ways.

Working on this complex project in collaborative ways with an extraordinary creative team assembled around visionary company director Julia Pascal has been a great pleasure, and a unique experience in times of great uncertainty, disruption and disconnection – highly informative, stimulating and challenging.

With that in mind, I hope you find the experience of navigating through ONE LOST STONE – a timely poetic monument to a nearly forgotten history – equally informative, stimulating and thought-provoking.

Please send us feedback, or your own untold stories, through our blog on this site. 

Enjoy your journeys across the site.