As a school girl in Bucharest, Lilian Broca knew her Jewish identity was better left hidden. In 1958, her family immigrated to Israel, then onto Canada in 1962. Since the late 1960s, having married and moved to Vancouver, Broca has frequently looked to mythological and biblical stories of courageous females to inspire her art.

Broca's The Lilith Series, about the legendary character created before Eve, served as the basis of a book co-authored with Joy Kogawa. Now Broca, as a mosaic artist, has been inspired by the story of Esther, a young Jewish girl who became queen of Persia, saving her people in the fifth century BC.

With a preface by Judy Chicago, The Hidden and the Revealed: The Queen Esther Mosaics of Lilian Broca (Gefen $35) is a 200-page coffee table book designed, in Chicago's words, "to put the woman's voice back where it should have been in the first place.";

A lyrical prose-poem by Yosef Wosk, using Esther's elder-sage voice, has been added to this lavish reinterpretation of Esther's story about both sacrifice and female empowerment. Broca's Queen Esther Mosaic Series, seven years in the making, also benefits from contributions by Sheila Campbell and Linda Coe.

Grudgingly competing in a beauty pageant to select Persia's new queen, in accordance with her foster father Mordechai's wishes, Esther is chosen by King Ahashvayrosh (aka Xerxes) and placed in his harem. She does not divulge her Jewish upbringing and beliefs, as advised.

When the evil Haman plans to exterminate Jews without the king's knowledge, Esther agrees to Mordechai's request to risk her life by approaching the king uninvited-an act for which she is liable to be sentenced to death.

For Broca, Esther's story also "exemplifies a successful intermarriage of two people from different cultures, namely Jewish and Persian.... My unexpected discovery that one of the earliest if not the earliest written reference to mosaics occurs in the biblical Book of Esther, in the passage describing King Ahashvayrosh's palace, further contributed to my decision to return to this powerful, singular art form."; 978-965-229-560-6

[BCBW 2011]