Crypto-Judaism to inform artist’s talk at JHM

Jônatas Chimen’s ‘In Thy Tent I Dwell’ installation explores his family’s 500-year diaspora story.

Brazilian-American crypto-Jewish artist Jônatas Chimen will make a Tucson stop on his North-American speaking tour sponsored by the U.S.-based grassroots nonprofit, Kulanu, Inc., which supports isolated, emerging and returning Jewish communities around the globe. Chimen’s presentation will be held Sunday, April 22 at the Jewish History Museum.

Chimen’s heritage as the descendant of immigrants in exile, victims of forced conversion, influences his painting, sculpture, performance art and writing. Much of his work and research focuses on his family’s personal story through their 500-year diaspora as a result of the Portuguese Inquisition.

For this event, Chimen will speak mostly about his own journey, says museum board member Jo Harris. He went from knowing nothing about his roots to becoming an observant Jew. Harris adds that he will weave in the importance of rescuing other Jews who “are still to be acknowledged, the emerging Jews.”

Programming that “sheds light on history and the larger community” outside Southern Arizona has been part of the museum’s activities for several years, says JHM program coordinator Jamie Luria. 

Chimen has authored articles, lectured in universities and been featured in galleries across the country and in Israel. He has a bachelor’s degree in Latin American, Caribbean and Iberian studies from the University of Madison-Wisconsin and a master’s in fine arts from Florida International University. The Anti-Defamation League named him Artist of the Year in 2015.

The free presentation begins at 11 a.m. at the museum, 564 S. Stone Ave. A discussion with the artist follows. The museum is a community partner of the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona. For more information, call 670-9073 or visit www.