Saturday, December 24, 2011

Nativity and Christmas Images from Around the World

Here are two sources for some beautiful nativity and Christmas images that showcase the artistry of nonwestern cultures:

The first was sent to me by my friend Paul Neeley.  It features fourteen creches collected by Rev. Jerry Dvorak, a pastor at St. Peter's Church in Richfield, Minnesota.

The other is a wonderful website called World Nativity, which I highly recommend that you check out.  The website is run by the Hydes, a Mormon family who "started buying Nativity scenes from artisans in poor or developing countries as a means of helping the artisans generate income in a way that preserved their dignity... the response has been so high that we have sold thousands of Nativities from more than 100 artisans since 2005. Profits are given 100 percent to charitable causes and micro-credit projects in Third World countries that benefit the poorest people on the planet."  This sounds like a WONDERFUL way to help many in need around the world, in a way that helps them become more successful business people!

The website features nativities from the Hydes' personal collection (not for sale), as well as others which are available for purchase.  Some of these for sale items include Christmas ornaments as well.  You can see images of others from their collection on their Facebook page.

Monday, December 19, 2011

As I continue to research on a post related to Ethiopian art, here's a lovely Christmas image from that country.  I'll try to post some more nonwestern Christmas images before the big day arrives.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

‘Jesus Mafa’ Paintings

Earlier this month my friend (and ethnomusicologist) Paul Neeley posted on his blog about the 'Jesus Mafa' paintings.  These paintings were produced in a collaboration between Mafa Christians in northern Cameroon and French missionaries.  The paintings that resulted from this partnership were western in style, but depicted the Mafa and their environment accurately so that the Mafa could identify with the biblical stories being portrayed.  Please check out Paul's post and see a wonderful example of one type of visual contextualization.  The last paragraph is especially worth reading!  And check out the Jesus Mafa website too.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Artist Profile: Safina Stewart

Southern Cross Turtle by Safina Stewart

Safina Stewart is an Australian Indigenous Christian artist living in Melbourne, Australia.  Born in Auckland, New Zealand, but raised in the highlands of Papua New Guinea, Safina grew up with many multicultural experiences where she learned to follow Jesus from her missionary parents.  Her father is Australian with a Scottish heritage and her mother is a Torres Strait Islander and Queensland Aboriginal.  At the age 13 Safina returned to live in mainland Australia.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Tibetan Christian Thangka Ministry

Jesus’ Life on Earth

One year ago I wrote a post about Tibetan thangkas and mentioned therein a Christian ministry that was selling Christian thangkas, though at the time I didn't know anything more about how they were being used.  In today's post, I am excited to provide some more information about them.

Back in 2001, some expatriate workers in the Himalayas puzzled over the repeated lack of effectiveness of more common approaches to reach Tibetan Buddhists for Christ, so they began to seek alternative ways of presenting the Gospel that would connect more directly with Tibetan Buddhists.  They formed a group called The Tibetan Storytelling Project (TSP) to address this concern.  The group eventually decided to produce an evangelistic DVD which would utilize traditional Tibetan art, songs, choreography and rhythmic speech in presenting the Gospel.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Church and Art - Word and Image Bible Studies

I encourage you to check out this bible study based on Matthew 2:13-23 and The Flight to Egypt by Chinese Christian painter He Qi [pronounced Huh Chee].  It's found at, a Christian website that "seeks to open up the world of the visual arts to the interested lay man and woman."  The website is chock full of information about artists, galleries, churches, art, etc. (primarily European), so please take a look.

The He Qi study is a part of their series called "Church and Art - Word and Image Bible Studies," and the goal of this individual study is "to find a new way into the biblical text by means of He Qi’s work... He Qi’s painting can help us explore the text, find new significance and make connections between this - seemingly insignificant - story and the larger narrative of God."  The study was written by Cisca Ireland-Verwoerd, a lecturer and writer based in Boston.

The study does a nice job of examining the painting itself, by exploring some of its visual elements.  I wouldn't call it an in-depth study, but I think that it could be an interesting addition to a deeper examination of the passage.  In any case, it's a good use of visual art to enhance a textual study and inject greater interest in the subject matter by associating a visual image with the passage.

Be sure to sign up for Artway's free weekly Visual Meditation email here.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Artist's Frame in Visual Arts

While waiting for approval on a couple of posts I've already written, I thought I would briefly discuss a topic from the class module I taught in September at GIAL: in visual arts, the concept known as frame.

Frame is the purpose or intention of the artist in communicating a message in a visual artwork.  When using visual arts to communicate a message, frame becomes very important.  In order to interpret the message in a visual artwork correctly, the audience needs to understand the intention of the artist.  Otherwise, the message is likely to be misinterpreted or ignored completely by the audience.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Indonesian Shadow Puppet Exhibit

The Angel Gabriel
I recently came across this art show video (see below) of Christian Indonesian shadow puppets, or Wayang Wahyu.  The puppets were created by Indonesian businessman and graduate student Baroto Murti Anindito and was first shown at Anindito's school, the University of Santo Tomas in Manilla, Philippines, from August 16 to September 21.  The show is currently on display at the GSIS Museo ng Sining (Museum of Art) in Pasay City, Philippines through October 29th.  The multimedia exhibition features some of the original shadow puppets done by Baroto, photographs and an audio-visual presentation that shows how the intricate puppets are made and how they are actually handled during an actual Wayang performance.

Wayang is an Indonesian form of shadow puppet theater that dates back to sometime during the first millenium A.D.  Wayang Wahyu is a Catholic form of shadow theatre created in 1960 in central Java by Brother Timotheus L. Wignyosoebroto as a way to communicate the stories and ideas in the Bible.  You can read more about Wayang Wahyu in a previous post of mine.

Photographs of some of the exhibit's 40 puppets can be seen here and here.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Arts in Mission 2011 Conference Video

Last month I traveled to Hertfordshire, U.K., to attend the Arts in Mission 2011: Training for Cross-Cultural Ministry conference at All Nations Christian College (see my post here).  Since that post, both a three-minute and six-minute video synopsis of the conference was posted online.  Please check out the longer video below in order to get a better understanding of the conference's purpose, and an overview of the manual which we explored while there (it's due to be published in the fall of 2012).

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Mongolian Christian Celebration Uses Visual Art

Back in June Ariunaa, a Southeast Asian living in Mongolia, contacted me about an upcoming worship celebration in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia that took place in September (2011).  Ariunaa had discovered some of my artwork, specifically this ceramic bowl called Risen Lord of Heaven and Earth.  She explained that the celebration in Ulaanbaatar was commemorating 20 years of the Gospel in Mongolia, and that people from all over Mongolia would be attending.  The event's worship leader had asked her to train a group of believers in using flags for worship; nine banners would be used during the celebration, and she wanted to know if they could adapt my bowl image for one of them.  Of course, I quickly agreed!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Henna-Inspired Art in Africa

I recently met Kristin Glaze at the the Arts in Mission 2011: Training for Cross-Cultural Ministry conference in the U.K.  She is currently about half way through a two-year assignment in southern Africa, and has a BA and a MFA in art.  Kristin's team has two branches: one is media-focused, reporting on missions stories for Christians mostly in the U.S.; the other does consulting regarding the use of oral communications and creative arts for field use.

Monday, October 3, 2011

A Busy September!

I've been back at home for about a week, after having been out out of town for two weeks in September.  I wanted to give a report on what I've been doing, since all of it related to arts and missions.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Australian Aboriginal Artist Greg Weatherby

I came across this review of Christian "related" art in Australia and thought I would pass it on, especially regarding Aboriginal artist Greg Weatherby.  I put related in quotes above because as the author notes, it's not entirely clear what the belief systems of the artists actually are.  I've come across information on a handful of Aboriginal Christian/Christian-related artists lately, but didn't want to post all them in a row.  So, since I am in the process of traveling as I write this post, I will go ahead and publish this one.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Festival of Native Peoples

If you live anywhere near Western NC, please go to the 6th Annual Festival of Native Peoples in Cherokee, NC this weekend:

Indigenous tribes from across the Americas gather for the sixth Annual Festival of Native Peoples this August at the Cherokee Indian Fair Grounds in Cherokee, N.C. Considered the finest showcase of native dance, song and art in the southeast, the event honors the collective history, customs and wisdom of some of the oldest documented tribes.

Adult admission $10.  I've been two or three times in years past, and it's wonderful.  Last year's art on display (and for sale) by native artists was of great quality and diversity.  I highly recommend it!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Indian Artist Frank Wesley

I wanted to provide some information about a great 20th century Indian Christian artist named Frank Wesley (1923-2002).  The following five paragraphs are directly quoted from the Kerrmuller Collection Art Gallery:

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

I continue to be bogged down by other responsibilities, while I try to prepare more blog posts.  In the meantime: though not indigenous-made, I thought this was an interesting "Raven Cross" that references a contextualization of a Tlingit myth.

Here is a Northwest Coast version of the same Raven, by First Nation artist Todd Baker, which is accompanied by a description of the story:

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

I've been a bit busy lately, hence the low post rate.  I just finished a painstakingly short missions article called “Contextualizing Visual Arts in Communities Around the World" which, at 1,000 words, doesn't scratch the surface (or at least doesn't give adequate depth to the limited number of examples I found).  In any case, I used some information from this blog, and some new research and contacts to write about three examples of contextualized nonwestern Christian art.  I'll soon be posting about all three of them, one of which will be an update to a previous post.  In addition, I plan to post a book review about an Australian indigenous artist.  So stay tuned!

In the meantime, enjoy this close-up of the Maori face of Christ from a church altar that I used previously in this post.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Lost World of Genesis

Here's a link to the second part of an interesting interview with John Walton, professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College.  In the interview, Walton discusses his book, The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate, and his idea that the the creation of the universe and the Garden of Eden were closely related to Solomon's Temple, in the sense that the Temple was a model of the cosmos.  He posits that the creation account in Genesis 1 is a description of function (in terms of temple use) rather than a description of the material universe, i.e., the young earth creationist viewpoint.  He relates this idea of creation and the cosmic temple to the other ancient cultures of the Bible, in how their temples were set up and used, as well as their shared symbolism.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Maori Baptismal Font

I just came across this article about an interesting Maori-carved baptismal font in an Anglican Church in New Zealand.  Although it was created for a western-style church, the meaning of the carvings is an interesting attempt to use Maori spiritual motifs for a Christian context.  I'm not sure if it is a successful example of contextualized art or not.  I'd be inclined to say not, because it wasn't created for a Maori Christian context and seams to be more syncretistic than contextualized.   But it looks really cool, and I think it was a noble attempt.  Take a look and let me know what you think!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Book Review: Aboriginal Church Paintings

I recently came across a couple of articles on the web (here and here) that mentioned a new book called Aboriginal Church Art: Reflecting on Our Faith by Eugene Stockton and Terence O'Donnell.  So, of course, I immediately emailed the publisher (no online ordering site) and ordered a copy by check.  The publisher's representative was very helpful and sent a copy from Australia straight away.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Tree of Life

I'm working on a review of a book on Aboriginal church art, and am trying to get images from the book to include in the review.  In my search I came across this image, which can be found here (scroll to the bottom of the page).  I think it's a great painting with some wonderful Gospel symbolism.  Here's the description:

This painting in the Cathedral is by Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr-Bauman.  She was asked to paint a picture to go with her talk called 'Dadirri', meaning silence or stillness.  It was the time when the saltwater crocodiles lay their eggs in the mounds they have prepared along the river banks or in the swamps amongst the cane grass.
The painting is in three parts.  The upper part depicts nature, which is our calendar.  It tells us when to hunt for fruits, yams, animals, reptiles, fish or birds.  By looking at certain flowers that are blossoming, or which way the wind is blowing, we know what to look for and gather.
The bottom of the painting is ourselves.  The circles and lines mean that we have been washed with Jesus' blood coming from the paperbark chalice.  The yam under the cross is Jesus' body.  The cross means that Jesus died for our sins and rose to life again.  At the top of the cross there are flames coming from fire sticks.  Jesus is the light of the world.
The tree in the middle represents the Aboriginal people.  Pope John Paul II said to them:  'You are like a tree standing in the middle of a bushfire sweeping through the timber.  The leaves are scorched and the tough bark is scarred and burned, but inside the tree the sap is still flowing and under the ground the roots are still strong.'  When the wet season sets in and the rain comes, the tree grows and blossoms.  The storm winds come too.  The white lines on each side of the tree are the water and wind representing the Holy Spirit.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

God as Artist: Expressions of Goodness « Cross-Cultural Impact for the 21st Century

Here is an interesting blog post from Mark Naylor at Cross Cultural Impact in the 21st Century, on the topic of God as artist. I think the last paragraph has some subtle implications for contextualization of the arts (as well as for us as we represent Jesus to everyone we meet). I like the paraphrase of John 1:14 that he includes from The Message towards the end of the post: "The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood."  With that in mind, here's something for visual artists to think about vis a vis the contextualization of the Gospel in indigenous art forms: what would it look like if, when the Word moves into a neighborhood (within the heart of you or me), he/she is an artist instead of a carpenter?  What it look like to "speak" through the artistic language of the people there?  How would Jesus do it?  Food for thought.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Son and the Crescent

While I work on future blog posts, take a look at this interesting article in Christianity Today. It explores the debate over whether or not to use the phrase "Son of God" in Bible translations for followers/potential followers of Jesus among Muslim populations:

The Son and the Crescent | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction

And along those lines, in June the Presbyterian Church of America (one of which I attend) is going to be discussing/debating this very topic, within the larger subject of "insider movements" and contextualization in missions:

This blog post also contains links to pro and con views of insider movements.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Indonesian Christian Shadow Puppets

Today I'd like to discuss the Indonesian art form of Wayang, or shadow puppetry, and its use by Christians to express the Gospel.  Much of my information for this post came from an article by Marzanna Poplawska for the Asian Theatre Journal.  In order to download a copy of the article, I signed up for a free trial account on Questia, downloaded the article, and then cancelled the subscription.  It's well worth a read.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Sorry for the delay...

I haven't been very a very productive blogger for the last couple of weeks!  Unfortunately, I've had to postpone a couple of potential topics for various reasons, which has left me empty-handed for today's post.  Not to mention that I've had spring fever since my last post and have been spending a lot of time working on the shade garden!  I will try to redouble my efforts in the coming week and hopefully generate a new post in about a week.

In the meantime, here's a great audio link from the Anglican1000 website that was sent to me by my friend Marcia.  It's a lecture by Tim Keller on contextualization, where he discusses why contextualization (of preaching, in his case) is necessary in expressing the Gospel and reaching those who need to hear it.  Although he doesn't deal specifically with the arts, what he discusses would apply to them also.  So I hope you will enjoy listening to it while I'm working on another post!

Here's the link:
To download the mp3, right-click on the player itself and select "Save video as...".

You can also access the lecture through iTunes here (Lecture #12).

Friday, April 22, 2011

Mehndi Gospel Paintings

God's Promise to Abraham.
Mehandi and acrylic on canvas. 2010
On this Easter weekend, I hope you are well and will have a chance to reflect on God' passion, mercy and love for you.  The resurrection is the event around which all of history and the universe revolves.  It is our reason for hope and joy in a world deeply scarred and broken:  "Behold, I make all things new" (Rev. 21:5).  So with a heart full of gladness, I wanted to celebrate Easter with a post about an example of artistic contextualization that portrays the story of mankind's fall and God's desire to save and redeem us (see my previous post about contextualized henna here).

Monday, April 4, 2011

Artist Profile: Watanabe Sadao
The Prodigal Son

Japanese Christian artist Watanabe Sadao (1913–1996) was a textile artist who worked in the katazome technique of stenciling and dyeing, which he learned while studying under master artist Serizawa Keisuke (1895-1984).  Keisuke had originally been trained in graphic design, but later became very involved in the mingei movement, which sought to recognize the beauty and significance of Japanese folk art of various media.  Keisuke studied under Yanagi Soetsu (1889-1961), the founder of the mingei movement.  Soetsu and his associates had scoured Japan for the finest examples of Japanese folk art of various media and in 1936 created the Japan Folk Craft Museum in Tokyo in which to display them.  Anne H. H. Pyle writes that Soetsu's

concept of mingei folk art consisted of objects made by hand from natural materials in sufficient number to serve or to be used by the masses of people daily, and he argued that “it was because they were used that they were beautiful” (p. 21).

Monday, March 21, 2011


Last week I was reading Isaiah 46:1-7 where God is speaking about the idols of Babylon and how powerless they are.  Along with the passage, I was also reading John N. Oswalt's commentary The Book of Isaiah.  His note on verses 5-7 caught my eye:

...Isaiah is not denying that the deity could be more than the idol.  He is simply saying that once a deity is associated with an idol, then it is impossible for that deity to be genuinely independent of creation.  The continuity with creation defines the deity's identity and forges its limitations.  It cannot be independent from history and cannot, therefore, deliver from history (p. 231).

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Last Supper

Here's a great image that combines both Persian and Thai art styles, by Thai artist Thammasak Aueragsakul, aka *Tigermyuou.  Unfortunately, his English description of the painting is a bit hard to understand, but you can download the image for your desktop (by clicking the image above or here).  His other work consists of both realistic and anime images, all of which is also excellent.  You can also find the artist's email contact on his profile page.

In the painting you can see Judas to the right of Jesus, with money bag in hand (foreshadowing) as he leaves to betray Him.  On the far left is a beautiful peacock, and a horned animal.  In the lower front left are two men carrying a Passover lamb.  The detail in the arches, carpet and clothing is spectacular.

So, do you consider this image an example of the Accomodation/Kernel and Husk method, or the Inculturation/Onion method of visual contextualization (or a combination of both)?


Saturday, March 5, 2011

Elmer Yazzie, Navaho Artist

Elmer Yazzie is a Navaho Christian who has been painting and teaching about art and faith for 35 years.  The son of a reformed minister, he was born on the Navaho reservation in Shiprock, New Mexico, and is a member of the "Where Two Waters Meet" clan.  Yazzie's sixth grade teacher at Rehoboth Christian School recognized his artistic abilities and gave him some art supplies to begin him on his journey as an artist.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Mandana Painting in India

I've been on a bit of a hiatus lately while working on some artwork on a deadline.  So today's post is a bit short, but about an interesting art form nonetheless.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Interview with Contextualizaton Pastor Cody C. Lorance

This week I'm featuring an interview with Cody C. Lorance, the Senior Pastor and Church Planting Leader for Trinity International Baptist Mission, currently serving in the Chicago metro area among immigrant peoples (Chicago Metro Baptist Association).  Cody is an eloquent and enthusiastic supporter of contextualized ministry among nonwestern cultures, and the author of Ethnographic Chicago: Considering College Students And Ethiopian & Tamilian Immigrants Missiologically.  He has a very informative blog, The Ramblings, in which he covers many topics, including contextualization in his ministry and beyond.  I recommend that you check it out.  In the meantime, here is an interview I conducted with Cody via email:

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Two Models of Visual Contextualization

I recently came across a new book called That Man Who Came to Us by Sawai Chinnawong and Paul DeNeui.  From the back cover:

That Man Who Came to Us tells the story of the life of Jesus Christ through traditional Thai art. Featuring black and white line drawings inspired by an art form born in northern and central Thailand, That Man tells the story of Christ as fully God, yet fully human. Artist Sawai Chinnawong employs the regions’ popular distinctive artistic style originally used to depict Buddhist moral principles and other religious themes. 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

What is God's View of Culture? Part 2

Welcome to Part 2 of the series "What is God's View of Culture?".  To prepare for this post, I read a couple of chapters in Paul G. Hiebert's Anthropological Insights for Missionaries, and re-read portions of Gerald R. McDermott's Can Evangelicals Learn From World Religions: Jesus, Revelation and Religious Traditions.  Both are fascinating books, especially McDermott's (he is also the author of God's Rivals: Why Has God Allowed Different Religions?- which is also a great book I've read- and Jonathan Edwards Confronts the Gods: Christian Theology, Enlightenment Religion, and Non-Christian Faiths).  Other helpful resources are One Church, Many Tribes and Culture, Christ, & Kingdom Study Guide, both by Richard Twiss.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

What is God's view of culture?

Today I'd like to begin a series of posts on the biblical view of culture and indigenous arts. I've referenced this topic partially in my series on biblical examples of contextualization, which focused on examples of God using contextualization in the Bible. In this series, I want to focus on how we as Christ's ambassadors should regard cultural expressions in the form of visual arts-- i.e., whether as basically good, sinful, or neutral.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Storyboard Carvings of Palau

I decided to do some research into Oceanic art, and came across a contemporary art form called storyboards, from the island nation of Palau. Palau is located in the Pacific Ocean, 500 miles east of the Philippines. The population is approximately 21,000, and 70% is made up of native Palauans.  In recent centuries, Palau was ruled by Spain, Germany, Japan, and the U.S. since World War II, but more became an independent republic in 1981.  Missionaries have been active in Palau since the early nineteenth century, when Jesuit missionaries reached the islands.  The listing of religious affiliation from Wikipedia is a bit confusing.  According to one report, 49.4% of the population are Roman Catholics, while in another report, the figure given is 65%.  The remaining population is made up of 21.3% Protestants (2000 individuals?), 8.7% Modekngei and 5.3% Seventh-day Adventists.  Modekngei is a hybrid religion that combines ancient Palauan beliefs with Christianity, and is mostly confined to one village.  This religion could be the topic of an entirely separate post.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Stars in Symmetry

Belated Merry Christmas, and Happy 2011!  I've been on a bit of a hiatus lately, and am trying to begin work on a new post.  In the meantime, check out this AWESOME blog about Islamic art: Stars in Symmetry.  This guy describes himself as "obsessed [with] the repeating tessellations of the tiles that adorn Islamic, religious or secular, buildings... The blog is a tribute to it."  He posts lots of great resources on Islamic art, architecture, and, of course, zillij.  Enjoy!