Sunday, December 30, 2012

2013 Indigenous Christian Art Calendars

I hope everyone had a peace-filled and joyous Christmas season.  May God continue to incarnate through our individual and corporate lives during 2013!

With January 1st fast approaching, I was conducting my annual wall calendar search.  Among others, I decided to look for calendars that contained artwork by indigenous Christian artists, as I had come across a couple in the past.  I found a total of three, and perhaps you might know of more.  If so, please share in a comment to this post.

Unfortunately, only two of the following three calendars are available outside of Europe (UPDATE: See note at the end of this post), but I thought I'd mention all three anyway.

The first is "The Guardian of Paradise," the 2013 Papua New Guinea wall calendar by Missio Aachen, a Catholic Mission organization.  Through Google ChromeTranslation, the website states that "the focus of the calendar is divine creation and preservation... The pictures in the calendar [reflect the] daily life of the islanders and simultaneously follow the biblical creation story in Genesis."  The calendar does not contain boxes for each day of the month, but rather shows one art image with a column or line of dates in small print on the side or at the bottom, as seen on page 3 here.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Nativity by Australian Aboriginal artist Duwun Lee

This Christmas image is by Australian Aboriginal artist Duwun Lee, and it appears in a set of 2012 Indigenous Catholic Christmas Cards for sale here by the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council (NATSICC).

Friday, December 21, 2012

Nativity by Jackson Beardy

An interesting indigenous nativity painting, though certainly not orthodox:

Nativity by Jackson Beardy, 1975

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Icon Exhibit, "Imaging the Invisible: Angels, Demons, Prayer & Wisdom"

Joy to All Who Suffer, c. 1750

For those of you in the Boston area (or will be by February 2, 2013), here's an exhibition of Russian Orthodox icons that you might want to check out, at the The Museum of Russian Icons.  The show's description states:

The great masters of iconography developed the use of symbolism to depict otherworldly beings and imprecise subjects such as angels, demons, prayer, and wisdom. Over time, these developed into beautiful and sometimes mysterious images.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Native American Heritage Month: Jesus as Sun Dancer

Sundancer Christ by Fr. John Giuliani
In honor of Native American Heritage Month, I am reposting parts of an Easter-themed article by Rich Avery titled "Good Friday – Jesus the Greatest Sun Dancer."  The article (and the accompanying video by Pastor Larry Salway) offer an interesting contextualized view of Jesus and the Sun Dance, a ritual ceremony performed by Native American Plains Nations.  Avery writes:

Most Native North American people groups have a story of how their people were created, and this story has been passed down orally for hundreds or thousands of years. 
And many have a story of a Messiah-like figure who will sacrifice himself in order to deliver or bring greater enlightenment to their people. But few make the connection to Jesus Christ as both their Creator and Messiah. 
The Lakota, and other nations of the Plains, have a ritual called the Sun Dance, where men will punish or sacrifice themselves by piercing their body or tearing their flesh in order to hopefully bring about a closer connection to Creator – not only for themselves but for their entire community.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Father John Giuliani, Painter of Native American Icons

Lakota Victory Christ by Father John Giuliani

Father John Battista Giuliani (b. 1932), the son of Italian immigrants, grew up in Greenwich, Connecticut.   He was an artistic child whose parents and teachers encouraged him to pursue his artistic interests, which propelled him as an adult to obtain an undergraduate degree in Fine Arts at New York's Pratt Institute.  Yet, in 1960 he gave up his pursuit of art to become a Catholic priest, a position in which he still serves today.  

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Diwali 2012

Today marks the beginning of the 5-day Northern Indian Hindu festival of Diwali, or the Festival of Lights (in South India it is called Deepavali).  Like Dashain in Nepal and Navratri in India, Diwali celebrates to victory of the Good over the Evil and Light over Darkness.  On the first day of Diwali, part of the festivities include drawing designs called rangolis on the ground in front of the entrance to one's home, as a form of welcome to the Goddess of Wealth and Prosperity, Lakshmi.  This brought to mind another painting of mine...

Saturday, November 3, 2012

November is Native American Heritage Month; New Book by Richard Twiss

Native american youth wearing a mixture of contemporary and traditional clothes.
Photo by thaths, 2011.

In case you didn't know, November is Native American Heritage Month:

Heritage Month is a time to celebrate the rich and diverse cultures, traditions, and histories and to acknowledge the important contributions of Native people. Heritage Month is also an opportune time to educate the general public about tribes, to raise a general awareness about the unique challenges Native people have faced both historically and in the present, and the ways in which tribal citizens have worked to conquer these challenges (

And on that note, it's also great to mention here for those of us interested in Christian missions and indigenous communities, that Richard Twiss of Wiconi International has written a new book titled Rescuing Theology from the Cowboys: An Emerging Indigenous Expression of the Jesus Way in North America.  Twiss, the author of One Church, Many Tribes: Following Jesus the Way God Made You, says that the new book was the basis for his Doctor of Missiology Degree dissertation for Asbury Theological Seminary.  He is self-publishing it (for now at least) and making it available online for $20.

I haven't read it yet, so if any of you read it before I get a chance, please let me know what you think.  I'm sure it will be an eye-opening and heart-searching book.  Here is Twiss' description:

My new book, Rescuing Theology from the Cowboys, is based on my reflections, research and experiences over the past 24 years as a Lakota learning to walk on the Good Red Road as a follower of Jesus. It is also the story of many of us Native leaders who have been walking this Jesus Road together in community since the late 1980s.  
It is a close examination of the inter-connectedness between European colonialism and Christian missions among the tribal nations in North America. It is a redemptive look toward a preferred future, informed and inspired by the good, bad and ugly of the past... 
I believe you will find it educational, helpful, challenging and hopefully inspiring. I truly hope it empowers you to discover what it means to be more fully human as a lover of our Creator, our relatives in Creation, yourself and your neighbors in the spirit of Jesus as we all work and live for the well-being of Seven Generations!

One reviewer at writes that the book "is an excellent codification of important movements of the Holy Spirit both in the Americas and globally over the past 20yrs."

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Resources for EthnoArts and World Missions

Through a series of fortunate links, I came across a webpage explaining EthnoArts at Ethnê, a global network focused on serving the 28% of the world's people without access to the Good News of Jesus the Savior.  Ethnê gives a introductory history about how the EthnoArts movement began during preparations for the Ethnê 09 event in Bogota, Colombia.  It then goes on to mention two EthnoArts Strategy Groups, one in Southeast Asia and one based in Latin America.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A Visually Contextualized Reflection on a Hindu Festival

Last week I posted about the 2012 Dashain Prayer Book produced by Cody C. Lorance, which used a rangoli painting of mine on the cover.  As I looked into the Hindu festival of Dashain, I read that it is focused on the goddess Durga.  I confess that I've only lightly researched Dashain, and a related festival in India called Durga Puja, the "largest outdoor art festival on earth" (October 20-24).  Durga Puja takes place during the last several days of Navratri, another Hindu festival.

In any case, I think that the main point of each Durga festival is the celebration of the victory of Good over Evil, in the form of the Durga's victory over the evil buffalo demon Mahishasura.  Unfortunately, this celebration of Good conquering Evil is ironic because it is spiritually a very dark and oppressive time when idols are fervently worshipped and the Giver of Life is unknown or ignored.

Seeing this image of Durga slaying the buffalo demon reminded me of another Hindu-style painting I once did called Jesus' Work on the Cross:

Jesus' Work on the Cross

I have no idea how this painting would be interpreted by Hindus, but my intent was to show the purpose of Jesus' sacrifice for our sins without simply showing him nailed to the cross.  And besides, the image of Jesus kicking Satan's tail has always been a favorite subject of mine!  Here Jesus spears Satan through the neck, effectively "crushing his head," while Satan "strikes" Jesus in the heel (Genesis 3:15).  Jesus wears a crown that symbolizes his divine kingship over heaven and earth.  The flaming halo around his head symbolizes the presence of the Holy Spirit upon him.

This image depicts the ultimate triumph of Good over Evil through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, who is motivated by his love for a lost world.  He didn't simply slay a demon; he defeated the King of the demons!  Of course, I suppose that it is Jesus' resurrection that confirmed his victory over Satan and Death, but that will have to wait for another painting.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

2012 Dashain Prayer Book

Cody C. Lorance, the Senior Pastor and Church Planting Leader for Trinity International Baptist Mission, has posted a 2012 Dashain Prayer Book.  Cody's book encourages Nepalese and other Christians to "ask God to fill our lives with his Holy Spirit and to produce the Spirit's fruit in us."  He writes:

Dashain is the greatest festival of Nepal. In this time we Bhutanese-Nepali devotees offer prayer during nine days. Every family should pray that the Holy Spirit would come into their homes. What do we need in life? All people need the nine fruit of the Holy Spirit. This small book will guide you during the Dashain-Navaratri prayer season. In this way, you may receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Because when we pray in the name of Lord Jesus, God the Father will hear us!

In addition, Cody used one of my paintings for the cover!  The painting is a cross-shaped design called a rangoli, which is a decorative design "made on the floors of living rooms and courtyards during Hindu festivals. [A rangoli is] meant to be sacred welcoming [area] for the Hindu deities" (Wikipedia).  This one shows the pierced feet of Jesus in the middle, welcoming Him into one's home.  Cody uses rangolis in some of his contextualized church rituals.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Kateri Tekakwitha: Native American Saint

The Lily of the Mohawks by Molly Kiely.

I found this story (and the cool image above) about Kateri Tekakwitha (1656–1680), a Native American Catholic woman who will be canonized today as a saint for her commitment to the church, despite being ridiculed and ostracized by her fellow Mohawks at the time.  She is known as "The Lily of the Mohawks."

There's nothing specifically about art in the article, but it's an interesting story nevertheless.  A group of more than 500 Mohawks will travel to Vatican City to witness the canonization ceremony in October, and will present a handwoven Mohawk basket to Pope Benedict XVI.

GIFT FOR THE POPE - Former St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Chief
Alma Ransom holds a handwoven baket made by Akwesasne
resident Sheila Ransom. A group from Akwesasne will deliver
the basket to Pope Benedict XVI during Kateri Tekakwitha’s
canonization ceremony this fall. (Hayden Photo)

Monday, October 8, 2012

Book by Ivan Jordan, Their Way, Available Again

Good News!  A missions friend recently sent me some information that she received from Ivan Jordan, author of Their Way: Towards an Indigenous Warlpiri Christianity, a book that is available for purchase again.  I previously wrote about Jordan's book here and here.

Here is the book's synopsis:

The development of the Christian 'purlapa' (traditional dance) and Warlpiri iconography are two of the most significant phenomena in the history of missions in Australia. This book details the development and significance of these and other attempts to bring an indigenous expression and application of the gospel within Warlpiri culture and reflects upon the missiological journey of faith experienced by the missionaries themselves. The combined impact of the above is such that these Aboriginal people have given new understanding and gained new respect from the family of Baptist Churches in Australia. 
Ivan Jordan has worked amongst the Warlpiri people over the last two decades. He has made a most remarkable journey. As a Baptist missionary Ivan was schooled in all the interpretations and traditions of 2,000 years of Christianity that instinctively assumed that the European models were privileged with superior insight and practice; but he has deliberately been prepared to set this aside and listen and learn.

Ivan Jordan reports:

Copies of 'Their Way' are available. The first 2 print runs were done by Charles Darwin University Press but they sold out a few years ago. The Australian Baptist Mission I served with, Global Interaction, did another print run a couple of years ago and they have copies available. Contact details are:

Global Interaction
P.O. Box 273
Tel 03 9819 4944

*  *  *

The book costs $25 (Australian Dollars– about the same as U.S. dollars), but the shipping costs to the U.S. will vary depending on location.  I highly recommend you order a copy if you have a deep interest in contextualized indigenous art and ministry.

If you don't get a response from the email address above, email Claudia Morris at  To read a review of the book in a Global Interaction magazine, click here and go to page 15.

Monday, September 24, 2012

A Brief History of Visual Contextualization in India: A.D. Thomas

The Transfiguration by A.D. Thomas

Alfred David Thomas (1907-1989) was an Anglican Indian who studied at the Lucknow Art School in Santiniketan, where he studied under Bireswar Sen and Nandalal Bose.  Sen himself was influenced by French book illustrator Edmund Dulac, who produced illustrations for children's classics such as The Arabian NightsSleeping Beauty, and Stories from Hans Christian Andersen, among others (his work is really great!).  Thomas later attended Visva Bharati University under Rabindranath's nephew, Abanindranath Tagore (the father of modern Indian art), and also studied in Florence, Italy.  He married in Italy and eventually moved to England where he lived until his death in 1989.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Jesus Question: Culture is God’s idea

Creation by Sawai Chinnawong

Here's the first of a two-part series called "Culture is God's Idea" by Victoria Jones at The Jesus Question.  In it, she gives a summary of an essay by Andy Crouch called “The Gospel: How Is Art a Gift, a Calling, and an Obedience?”, from the book For the Beauty of the Church.  I'm looking forward to reading her thoughts about the essay in the second post, because the summarized ideas presented here are definitely food for thought.  She begins:

[Crouch] packs so many insights into fifteen pages, with two main emphases:  God’s creation and blessing of culture in the Garden of Eden and during the Last Supper, and the “uselessness” of art (linked to the uselessness of prayer and praise).

Both ideas are intriguing and, especially for this blog, the first is very important: although human culture began in the Garden of Eden, I had never thought of God Himself as the first "culture-maker." He began this process by manipulating his previously-created resources to form the garden, and then gave it to Adam to continue cultivating (Genesis 2:8).  For more, click the link above!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Incarnate 2013: The OM Arts School of Mission

Calling all artists: if you have a passion for serving Christ overseas with your artistic talents, read on.

Incarnate 2013, the OM Arts School of Mission, will take place from Wednesday, Febuary 13 – Saturday, May 04 2013 in Torino, Italy.

It's purpose is to "graduate artists passionate and prepared to employ their gift for long term ministry, especially in Europe... you will learn and practice an incarnational approach to ministering through the arts."  To find out more about this incarnational approach, check out the school's latest blog post here.

If you're an artist and want in on the adventure, they're now taking applications for visual artists, dancers and musicians.  Deadline to apply is November 15, 2012.  For more on how the school got started last year, see this article.

*** UPDATE: Incarnate 2014 has been cancelled and rescheduled for 2014.  For more info, click here.

Monday, September 10, 2012

A Brief History of Visual Contextualization in India: The Bengal Renaissance and the Birth of Modern Indian Christian Art

Hindostan or British India map, c.1864.

Continuing in my intermittent series on visual contextualization in India, I want to give an overview on the Bengal Renaissance and its influence on 20th century Indian Christian artists.

Orientalist official of the
East India Company (circa 1760)
After the decline of the Mugal Empire in the mid-17th century, India came under the rule of various regional leaders called rajas.  About a century later, the privately-funded British East India Company took control over large areas of India, exporting cotton, silk, indigo dye, salt, saltpetre, tea and opium to Britain and Europe.  It eventually ruled over "India with its own private army, exercising military power and assuming administrative functions... In the modern era, its history is strongly associated with corporate abuse, colonialism, exploitation, and monopoly power."  It was absorbed into the British government's direct control in 1874.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Issues of IMAGE Magazine Available Free to Read Online

Yang ya Utaw si Manggob (Angel) by Federico Dominguez

Here's a website that has a few issues of IMAGE magazine, the former publication of The Asian Christian Art Association, available for reading free online.  IMAGE covered several traditional and contemporary artists in its pages.  I'm not sure how long the magazine was printed, but enjoy these issues!

Lausanne Movement Appoints Senior Associate for The Arts

The Lausanne Movement has appointed a Lausanne Senior Associate for The Arts.  Rev. Dr. Byron Spradlin, Founder and President of Artists in Christian Testimony Intl, which mobilizes and equips artistic, innovative ministries and missionaries for Christian work, accepted the position in June at the Lausanne International Leadership meeting. Read more here.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Sadao Watanabe: Boat in the Storm

Christ in Boat with Disciples by Sadao Watanabe, 1981.

Here's a wonderful image by Sadao Watanabe over at Artway, with an accompanying visual meditation by Sandra Bowden.  Not only is this a beautiful work of art by the Japanese artist, but it's also part of an upcoming traveling exhibition and exhibition catalog by CIVA (Christians in the Visual Arts).  And, for me, the last paragraph of the meditation is a wonderful reminder that Christ is always with us, no matter the storm we're facing, even if we can't hear his voice at that moment.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Tim Keller on Contextualization

The other day I came across Tim Keller's book Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City, which features three chapters on contextualization.  Chapter 10 is called "Active Contextualization," and is essentially a printed version of Keller's lecture that I posted about here.   I haven't read the rest of the book, so I can't comment on the other two chapters about contextualization, but Chapter 10 is definitely worth a read.  In it Keller discusses how to practically approach the process of contextualizing the Gospel in any society, whether one's own birth culture, another society, or even a different generation.  Although Keller's ministry context is Manhattan, the points that he makes in this chapter could be applied to any place or culture, western or nonwestern.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Art as Culture: Chapter 2 Review

Papua New Guinean artist Fabian Paino carves the wooden part of a Tatanua Mask.

Chapter Two of Evelyn Payne Hatcher's Art as Culture is titled "The Geographical Dimension."  The chapter consists of two parts: the first is a worldwide survey of traditional cultures and the physical environments in which they live, with an emphasis on the art forms of each society.  The second (and shorter) part is called "Art and Environment," which explores how physical environments may affect indigenous culture and visual art forms.  The first section is far too short to be of much value, though it might provide a beginning point for further research.

The second section is much more interesting.  Hatcher attempts to summarize various ideas about the relationship of the physical environment to the form and imagery of indigenous visual art.  She emphasizes three main points:

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Buddhist Sand-Mandala Demo in Asheville, NC

For those of you in the Asheville area, there's an opportunity this week to see a Buddhist sand-mandala being created at Urban Dharma NC, for the new Buddhist Temple and Tibetan Ritual-art Gallery's Grand Opening.  The sand-mandala's creation will be taking place daily from 7/16 to 7/20 (10 a.m. – 8 p.m.).  The event is free and open to everyone.  After the mandala has been completed, it will be placed in an elaborate shrine for viewing, and then ritually destroyed at 2:30 pm on Sunday, 7/22, to symbolize the Buddhist doctrinal belief in the transitory nature of material life.  Urban Dharma NC is located at 29 Page Ave. in Asheville.

Since I was unaware of this event, I haven't prepared a post on Buddhist sand-mandalas (yet), but in the meantime there's always the Wikipedia article.

Here is a time-lapse video showing the creation of a sand-mandala:

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Christian Art Scene in Yogyakarta, Indonesia

Karel Steenbrink over at Relindonesia posted a story about a farewell lecture by Professor Volker Küster of The Theological College of Kampen in Denmark.  The lecture (and accompanying booklet), The Christian Art Scene in Yogyakarta, focuses on five Javanese Christian artists: Bagong Kussudiardjo, Hendarto, Hari Santosa, Dopo Yeihan and Wisnu Sasongko.  I hadn't heard of all of them, though I'd seen examples of some their work.

One whose work I'd never seen was Hendarto, and the examples that I've found so far, I really like.  He was born in 1951 and was a Muslim convert to Catholicism.  I really like his expressive lines and colors.  His work reminds me of a combination of Nyoman Darsane and Sawai Chinnawong.  

Adam and Eve

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

More thoughts on Chapter 1 of Art as Culture

Ethiopian Icon: Christ in Glory with Symbols of the Four Evangelists
by Simachew Mesfin

Toward the end of my post on the Preface and Chapter 1 of Art as Culture: An Introduction to the Anthropology of Art, I mentioned a few of Hatcher's points regarding the meanings found in art objects.  She writes that there are five levels of meaning in art: subject, symbolic/iconographic, interpretation/theoretical, metaphor and ambiguity.  I'd like to compare and contrast these five levels with ideas presented in a forthcoming missions manual called Researching and Creating Together: How Local Artists Can Help Communities Reach their Kingdom Goals, which was the basis for a one week module on visual arts that I taught last year for a course at GIAL.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Asian Christ Mosaic

Until I get my next post finished, here's an interesting image I came across at this website featuring lots of Bible-related art from several different cultures and time periods.  Jesus sits upon a lotus flower, giving two mudras: His right hand showing the mudra of Abhaya, symbolizing protection, peace, benevolence, and dispelling of fear, while his left hand displays the Varada mudra, symbolizing ‘open-handed’ generosity such as charity or the granting of wishes.  Wikipedia writes that "it is nearly always shown made with the left hand by a revered figure devoted to human salvation from greed, anger and delusion."  Behind his head is a cross halo.  Fiery bands emanate from him, like an aureola.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Art as Culture: Preface and Chapter 1 Review

Back in March I wrote a brief post about Evelyn Payne Hatcher's book Art as Culture: An Introduction to the Anthropology of Art.  Afterwards I ordered a copy and promptly read the first chapter, but have not gotten beyond that as of yet.  However, what I've read so far has been very interesting, and I think that instead of trying to read the whole book and then write one review, I will review the chapters individually (or in groups perhaps) so that I can discuss more details and concepts throughout the book.  So in today's post I will begin with the book's preface, and then Chapter 1, "Contexts and Comparisons: The Anthropological Approach" (the first eight pages can be read here).

In her preface, Hatcher establishes the purpose of the book as "primarily to help provide a way for formulating questions concerning whatever aspect of the subject [art objects] is of interest, at whatever level the reader wishes to pursue it" (xi).  In order to assist the reader in this endeavor, she seeks to simply the multiplicity of theories surrounding the anthropological study of art and culture.  Hatcher rejects the idea of finding a single model to explain art in all societies, if that model is built upon only one viewpoint or way of looking at culture.  Rather,

one can perceive many theories and models as belonging to different categories, rather than as competing explanations... When various levels, aspects and viewpoints are sorted out in very basic terms, relationships between these different perceptions can emerge... Until the basic similarities are laid bare, the subtleties between different formulations of similar concepts make for confusion, misunderstanding, and unproductive controversy (xiv).

Sunday, June 10, 2012

New Terracotta Warriors Unearthed

Although not related to Christianity, here is a post by Hans van Roon at Mongols, Ancient China and the Silk Road about some of the latest terracotta warriors discovered in Xian, China, which show more traces of their original colors than previous figures.  I'm reposting it here in order to show that many examples of colorless art and architecture from the ancient world were originally brightly colored.  Something to keep in mind today as artists create new art based on ancient sculpture and the Gospel!

For more info about current excavations and the efforts to preserve the original colors of the warrior figures, check out this article at National Geographic as well as their recent photo gallery of painted warrior details.  The article explains how the original colors crumble from the terracotta surfaces within four minutes of excavation– "vibrant pieces of history lost in the time it takes to boil an egg."  So finding a way to immediately stabilize them was imperative.

The article is also accompanied by this short "fly by" video showing a reconstruction of the warriors at Xian with their vibrant colors intact:

Monday, May 28, 2012

Guatemalan Painter Manuel Reanda

Manuel Reanda is a self -taught Tzutujil painter who lives in Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala.  Manuel was born in 1948 and, though he was orphaned at six years of age, he had already begun drawing on the walls of his home with pieces of charcoal each day before going to school.

Manuel committed himself to a lifelong pursuit after finishing elementary school.  During this formative period of his life, he apprenticed for five years under the city's first "master" painter, Juan Sisay.  As an adult he studied mural painting in Mexico City with Juan O’Gorman, a student of the famous Mexican muralist Diego Rivera.  In the years since, he has passed on his knowledge of painting to many students of various ages.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

A Brief History of Visual Contextualization in India Part 4: Saint Thomas Christians

For this installment in my series "A Brief History of Visual Contextualization in India," I'll be discussing India's first Christian community, the Saint Thomas Christians (or "Nasrani").  Saint Thomas Christians traditionally live in the southwestern coastal state of Kerala and descend from a union of the local Indian population with a Jewish diaspora community, who had become Christians in the earliest days of the faith.  The Saint Thomas denominations use a Syriac liturgy in their church services and trace their spiritual heritage back to the assumed arrival of the Apostle Thomas ("Doubting Thomas") in southern India in 52 A.D.  In the third century, Nestorian Christian missionaries from the Church of the East in Persia began to settle in Kerala and organize the churches there according to their beliefs and liturgy.  Later in 1665, due to religious pressure from Portugese Catholics, the Saint Thomas Christians began to split into various factions along Catholic/Nestorian lines.  Today, this schism has resulted in several different Saint Thomas denominations, including Nestorian, Catholic, Orthodox, and even (since 1961) Evangelical!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Headstone with Lotus and Cross

While I'm slowwwwly writing the next post on my series A Brief History of Visual Contextualization in India, here's a cool image from the USF Ricci Institute for Chinese-Western Cultural History that I came across showing a beautiful Christian headstone from China.  It dates from the Yuan dynasty (1272—1368) and is now located in the Quanzhou Maritime Museum.  The caption reads:
Headstone showing a cross on a lotus flower and a cloud design set within a plain border following a curved outline. This basic design is repeated extensively in the Christian monuments dated to this period, although its iconographic import is unknown.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Mehindi Job Training in South Asia Uses Bible Stories

I recently came across the following blog entry by a Christian worker in South Asia, Lucy Chilton (not her real name).  She describes her use of henna/mehindi designs inspired by the Bible while giving job training to local women at a beauty salon school and sewing center.  If you are a lady who is interested in this art form, and wonder how it could be used to communicate the Gospel in South Asia or anywhere in North Africa or the Middle East, I suggest you read on.  For the rest of you, please read on anyway and rejoice that God is using cultural art forms to draw his children to Himself!

You can also check out my earlier post on the use of some of these same henna/mehindi designs by another missionary here.

Here is Lucy's post:

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Engelbert Mveng: A Theology of Life Expressed in Art

Eighth Station of the Cross

Engelbert Mveng was born in 1930 near Yaoundé, Cameroon, to Presbyterian parents. He eventually became a Jesuit priest, as well as a historian, poet, artist, philosopher, and theologian., a website that seeks to open up the world of the visual arts to interested Christians, writes that “Father Mveng studied the aesthetics of African arts and published his findings in numerous books and articles. ... His teaching was based on what he called the universal rules of African art. As a historian and theologian he made a great contribution to the study of African culture and history, especially in the realms of cultural and religious anthropology and iconology.”

Friday, April 27, 2012

Cherubim as Winged Protectors

Raanan Eichler, a Ph.D. researcher and occasional instructor in the Department of Bible at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, has written an illustrated article on the biblical cherubim in Tarbiz, the leading Jewish studies journal in the world.  In it he compares the descriptions of the cherubim on the Ark of the Covenant and Temple with similar beings in Egyptian-Canaanite iconography, as well as Egyptian parallels to the Ark itself.

Monday, April 16, 2012

A Brief History of Visual Contextualization in India: Mughal Art

Christ as Salvator Mundi, 17th century.

Continuing with my series on visual contextualization in Indian art, I'll now turn to a another chapter in India's art history: Mughal Art.  The Mughal Empire was an Islamic ruling power in India from 1526-1858, although its "classic period" lasted from 1556-1707.  At its height, it controlled most of India, and parts of Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan.  Besides trusty Wikipedia, I also will also be referring to Crossing Cultural Frontiers: Biblical Themes in Mughal Paintings by Som Prakash Verma (or more information about the book, see Amazon).

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Supper at Emmaus by He Qi

He Qi, Supper at Emmaus

He Qi (pronounced “Huh Chee”) is a contemporary Chinese Christian artist that paints primarily biblical themes and scenes. However, he combines these stories with Chinese cultural elements drawn from the colorful folk art of the Chinese countryside, and rural Tibet. In addition to these sources, he also references the iconography of the Western Middle Ages and Modern Art. If you aren't familiar with his art and story, click here to read more about the symbolism in his work and his own personal journey.  You can also read more about him at a previous post of mine here.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

On the Road to Emmaus

Here's an image of Jesus and the two travelers on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35), by Kazakhstani artist Nelly Bube.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Holy Women at the Tomb.
Syriac Gospel Lectionary, Northern Iraq, 1216–20.

In between posts this week, I thought I'd share some Resurrection-themed artwork.  This is a detail of an illustration from a Syriac Gospel Lectionary from northern Iraq (1216–20), titled "Holy Women at the Tomb."

The image of the Holy Women visiting the tomb of Christ illustrates the text of St Matthew, in which he recounts that at dawn on the first day of the week St Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to the tomb and saw an angel, who said to them: "Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said." (Matthew 28:5-6). 
The manuscript shows a strong Byzantine influence in the choice of texts and style of illustrations. However, many of the details of the illustrations, such as trees, rocks, architecture, and much of the clothing, are Islamic in style.

I LOVE the colors, the stylized plants, the beauty of the written Syriac script, and the fact that it combines images from the Bible with two different stylistic sources, Byzantine and Islamic art.  If I understand correctly, the modern Syriac Orthodox Church and Syriac Catholic Church in Iraq both employ "the oldest surviving liturgy in Christianity, the Liturgy of St. James the Apostle, and [use] Syriac, a dialect of Aramaic spoken by Jesus Christ and his Apostles, as its official and liturgical language."

More information about the image can be found at the British Library website.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Have a Blessed Easter

Liberation From Fear of Death by P. Solomon Raj

"Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death."  Hebrews 2:14-15

Friday, April 6, 2012


Here's my Good Friday image of Jesus praying in Gethsemane, from a ceramic bowl I made some years ago.  It's based on the style of Tibetan paintings called thangkas.  May we remember today that Jesus came into this world to call lost sinners and give us abundant life in him.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Website: Sacred Art Pilgrim

The Triumphal Entry by unknown Ethiopian artist, tempera/acrylic on parchment

Here's a great image and sacred art resource by way of W. David O. Taylor at Diary Of An Arts Pastor.  It's a website by John A. Kohan called Sacred Art Pilgrim.  Kohan writes: "This website presents works from my sacred art collection with meditations and religious texts in ways, I hope, [that] will bring image and story together, as they were meant to be, and help us to see once again with the eyes of the heart."  It has a great selection of biblical art from various time periods and parts of the world, arranged by theme, passage, or meditations about specific artists' work.

Kohan is a former TIME Magazine correspondent and an artist himself.  He has journeyed all over the world studying and creating sacred art.  He hopes to one day establish a sacred art museum, which would both host a permanent collection as well as send out "satellite shows to churches and educational institutions across the country."

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Nyoman Darsane at The Jesus Question

Be sure to check out Victoria Jones' new post at The Jesus Question about Balinese Christian artist Nyoman Darsane.  Darsane is an incredibly talented painter who masterfully combines the joy of the Gospel with his Balinese culture, and Victoria's post does him justice.  His motto is "Bali is my body; Christ is my life." I hope to meet him in person someday!