David Labkovski Project: teaching the Holocaust through art

Decades ago, a remarkable artist used his work to survive the horrors of World War II and his imprisonment in the Siberian prison camp, known as a “gulag". Today his work is being used to teach young people about life lessons, survival and the holocaust in a unique way.

The David Labkovski Project allows young people to curate his work into an exhibition, whilst simultaneously learning about the Holocaust and the strength of human spirit.

Labkovski great-grand-niece Leora Raikin is an educator, artist, speaker, and author who works on the project. For her, Labkovski's work tells great truths.

He lived through the most tumultuous period in history. He lived through World War II. He was sent to a Siberian prison camp, known as a “gulag" and he survived his brutal prison conditions through his artistic skills.

Leora Raikin, educator, artist and speaker

Labkovski's work is categorised in four periods according to Raikin. Life before the Holocaust, particularly of the Jews in Lithuania; his time in Siberia and prison; the devastation after the war and the stories of the survivors.

With the end of the war stuck in people's minds, Labkovski work was too real for many to confront while he was alive. Raikin says that he decided to never part with his art, and hoped that future generations would be able to appreciate and learn from it.

Now the David Labkovski Project is doing just that.

In the '50s, '60s and '70s people are not ready or willing to confront the horrors of the Holocaust. They feel like they can't talk about it. It's too painful, too raw, too real.

Leora Raikin, educator, artist and speaker

Raikin and her team developed the David Labkovski Project. The project is a 16 hour long educational programme. Students have to curate an exhibition of Labkovski work, but in the process they learn more about the man and the time he lived in.

Labkovski says the project has been taken to various schools in the USA. While students curate the work differently, they become the basis of education on the Holocaust to their peers, friends and family. Now it has come to South Africa.

The project is currently in Durban and will be in Joburg on 3 September 2017.

Listen to the full interview with Leora Raikin below:

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