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A Language Without Words

Kay Wilson - 27 May 2021

Uttering a blessing when we find ourselves in extraordinary nature expresses the fact that we do not always have the adequate words when encountering beauty. This is not unique to Judaism. When admiring art or music, people whoever they are, also do not always have the right words to say.

There is no better example of words being superfluous as in the case of award-wining designer and South African immigrant, Annie Selby.  Self-taught, Annie came home to Israel over a decade ago and nearly from the very first day has worked as a designer. Her dream to be an artist did not start in the Middle East, but back in the Southern hemisphere when she was just 12-years old. That’s when she knew she wanted to be a designer. Many kids would have been disheartened if their high school teacher had told them they would never be good enough to earn a living at what they loved, but not Annie. Shunning the negativity of a high-school art teacher she set her sights on art and told herself that she too could learn to create beautiful things.

“Her lack of Hebrew was not a barrier, because her art was a bridge”

Annie Selby – Award-wining designer and South African immigrant

A single mom, and without any prior knowledge of Hebrew, like every other immigrant, Annie was also plunged into a rather abrasive society where the rules were simply do or die. In between raising three little kids, which meant managing the likes of endless parents meetings and dealing with an impatient and estranged bureaucracy, she embraced the ethos of hard work and buckled down to work in the bomb shelter of her apartment. This came at a cost: With no time to join the government’s free Hebrew classes, she knew that what she lacked in words, she could make up for in art. Her lack of Hebrew was not a barrier, because her art was a bridge.

Most people would not know who she was if they bumped into her, but her work is on a copious amount of various merchandise throughout Israel. Her design labels for the likes of burgers, beer, olive oil and wine, have swept up national and international recognition, causing even the likes of Israeli dairy products to become a favourite among Europeans who are ever-so-proud of their cheese.

Only 20 years ago, even the most hardened Sabre would occasionally cringe at local Israeli commercial art. That was a time when there was a minimal choice of Hebrew fonts, printing was limited and expensive, and the subtlety and quick wit evident in global marketing left a lot to be desired in Israel. The lack of resources and creativity impacted the sales of Israeli exports which in turn stunted the local economy and the standard of living.

“Only 20 years ago, even the most hardened Sabre would occasionally cringe at local Israeli commercial art”

Annie’s designs have markedly changed all that. Her eye for beauty has left its imprint not just on the market, but also on the language skills of her clients. Given that the deadlines of the work was the priority, her clients also had to concede and learn to speak English until Annie picked up Hebrew. The worlds language of art ultimately spoke volumes making for a win-win all around.

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