Monday, June 7, 2010

Some thoughts on the role of the visual arts in indigenous cultures

As I continue to read various books and articles relating to indigenous visual arts (including my post about Balinese Christian artist Nyoman Darsane), a question has come to my mind, one that I'd really love to get some feedback about from indigenous Christian leaders.

The question is, what role do you see for the visual arts among believing Christians in your culture? And more specifically, what role do you see for the visual arts in your culture in light of the more western view of art, where objects are created by an individual artist/artisan to hang on a wall, vs. indigenous art objects (icons, clothing, jewelry, architectural ornamentation, ritual objects, etc.) that have been created (sometimes by anonymous artisans) for ritual or symbolic use by believers? Which of these two views of “art” do you see as being most vital/needed by believers in your culture? Which view do you see as being most useful for communicating who Jesus is to nonbelievers?

My thoughts (so far) are that most indigenous societies traditionally have had no use for “art” in the western sense, although this is probably changing in a few cases as income levels rise and the world gets smaller due to world travel, internet and satellite tv. Yet in many traditional cultures where personal or home shrines are used, or in others where cultural/ethnic identity is important (see my post on this here ), the visual arts could be very significant to indigenous believers as they maintain some of their traditional worship patterns, but with the focus now on Christ. Thoughts anyone?

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