By Erin Levi

Amid the swaying palms and splendor of Miami, Shoshana Itzhak (Shushan Jakobov Ichak), affectionately known as Shusha, is an artist whose paintings encapsulate the beauty and richness of her Bukharian heritage. With a life steeped in creativity and a passion for her culture, Shusha’s journey from Israel to Miami is a testament to resilience, talent, and a deep-rooted connection to her roots.
«A gift from G-d,» Shusha chuckled, as she reminisced about her artistic beginnings during an early-evening FaceTime call, in which she invited me virtually into her home, filled beauty and happiness.
Aside from the 40 oil paintings hanging and laying about, central to Shusha’s home is her impressive collection of antiques, from suzani to joma, each item a testament to the enduring legacy of the Bukharian people. «My house is full of teapots,» she laughed, surrounded by memories of a bygone era, each revived with a brew.
Looking around, I was awe-struck by her talent. Known for her realist style, Shusha’s paintings and drawings often resemble photographs, capturing moments with astonishing detail and clarity. These moments are, in fact, from memories and fantasies.

Shusha’s artistic flair found its roots in her upbringing in Israel, where she was surrounded by the treasures of her Bukharian heritage. «My father’s shop on Shenkin Street was my playground,» she recalled fondly. It was there that she first fell in love with the colors and stories of Bukharian life.
Today, at almost 83 years old, Shusha radiates vitality and creativity. «Thank G-d, I do everything for myself,» she said proudly, her eyes sparkling with determination. «Painting, shopping, ceramics classes—I keep myself busy.»
With a twinkle in her eye, she recounted her diverse experiences, from exhibiting her work in Vienna to showcasing her talent in Israel. «Many years ago, I had an exhibition in Israel too,» she shared, a hint of nostalgia in her voice.
As a mother of 6, grandmother of 10, and great-grandmother of 4, Shusha considers herself to be a «very rich lady.» As a bonus, «all of them are artistic.»
She returned to painting after her children grew up. «Then I started doing it like crazy,» she shared, smiling.
Her family history, woven with tales of resilience and generosity, adds depth to her narrative. Shusha fondly remembers her mother, whose altruism touched many lives, embodying the spirit of kindness and compassion. «She helped a lot of people who came from Russia, in all different kinds of ways,» recalls Shusha, her voice filled with admiration.

Her father, Amnon Jacobov, played his part in aiding others, sending food from Samarkand to Tehran during difficult times. And her mother’s resourcefulness knew no bounds; she put turmeric on her face to disguise her beauty, evading being recognized and, heaven forbid, raped, whenever they traveled.
«That’s how the Jewish people survived, running from here to there, but it’s not finished yet. They want to kill us,» said Shusha, injecting a dose of grim reality into our conversation.
Shusha’s family tree traces back through generations, each branch a testament to the resilience and strength of the Bukharian people. On her father’s side, her great-grandfather, Baruch Boruchov, stood as a pillar of the community. Her grandfather, Yosif Haim Jacobov (or Boruchov), continued this legacy of resilience and perseverance. Her grandmother, Mazal Yugudayov, made sacrifices to protect her family’s identity by changing her name to sound less Jewish.
On her mother’s side, the lineage is equally rich. Braha Shimonov, her maternal grandmother, instilled values of courage and determination. Her mother, Bibi Shirin Shulpayov, hailed from a well-known family, with her father, Mikhail Gaboy, leaving an indelible mark on their community.
As our conversation continued, Shusha’s passion for her heritage became even more evident. Her paintings, crafted with meticulous detail and a keen eye for realism, served as a homage to the stories and struggles of her ancestors.
Art as a Life Philosophy

«Art makes you happy,» Shusha mused, as she reflected on the transformative power of creativity. «You care about nothing when you’re lost in a painting.»
Beyond celebrating her cultural heritage, Shusha’s art serves as a poignant reminder of darker chapters in history. «Sometimes I paint scenes of the Holocaust,» she said softly, her brushstrokes imbued with a sense of reverence and remembrance.
How many hours a day does she paint? «It depends on my mood,» said Shusha. Sometimes, she opts to do ceramics instead.
«See this one?» she points to an ornate vase with shimmery white leaves. «I put a little gold and pearls in the leaves,» she said, as if sharing a cherished secret of her method.

Big Dreams

Looking ahead, Shusha dreams of participating in prestigious events like Art Basel, eager to share her talent with a wider audience. «Maybe you’ll come?»
«Definitely,» I replied.
As our conversation drew to a close, Shusha expressed her willingness to share her talents wherever they may be needed. «If Rafael needs me to come to New York, I’ll come,» she said with a smile, embodying the generosity and warmth that define her spirit.
In Shoshana Itzhak’s world, art is more than just a brushstroke on canvas—it’s a celebration of life, love, and the enduring legacy of the Bukharian people. As her journey continues to unfold, one thing remains certain: Shusha’s art will continue to inspire and captivate audiences around the world.

To see more of her art, follow Shusha on Instagram at @shoshana_ichak40.