Friday, December 21, 2012

Nativity by Jackson Beardy

An interesting indigenous nativity painting, though certainly not orthodox:

Nativity by Jackson Beardy, 1975

It is my personal belief that a messenger from the Great Spirit came to earth in the form of His image after Him through a virgin birth in unrecorded history. Through this man, knowledge was passed onto man from the Great Spirit. Many of the teachings of this man have been kept by word of mouth through the ages by the elders of all tribes.

We see the virgin mother-to-be holding on to an embryo connected to the sun symbol (the Great Spirit) who has deemed it necessary to send his messenger to his people. The mother is also connected to Mother Earth who is nursing her. She too is connected by a lifeline to the sun symbol. Around her are all the orders of creatures who come to see the messenger. He is born to explain their existence, [to restore] harmony between humanity and the elements, physi­cally, mentally, and spiritually. On the other side of the sun symbol we see an elder in prayer, ritually offering a bowl filled with sacred things. You can see the sun symbol is resting on his hunched frame, … bearing him down with doubts, fear, depression, and all the ills of his time, his back to the very miracle he is praying for.... It will take time for all to fully comprehend this phenomenon which has come to pass.

The four semicircles represent the elements of the air: snow, rain, tornadoes, heat. The moon is painted above the elder. We regard the moon as our Grandmother who keeps vigil over all creatures during the night.

Jackson Beardy 1944-1984
Winnipeg, Manitoba

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From the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops website:

In the 1975, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops commissioned 20 artists from across the country to create works which would convey the Christian message and also serve to illustrate one of its publications at the time, the Sunday Mass Book.

The artists were given the task not merely of describing an event or person in documentary terms, but of sharing the inner meaning of that event or person in contemporary artistic idiom.  They were asked to share their deepest insights and talents as they spoke of the presence of God.  Together their work is a uniquely Canadian expression of the significance of the Christian message, and reflects the cultural richness and diversity of Canada and its people.

Among the artists, almost every region of the country is represented, as is youth, maturity and creativity into old age.  This group also included several Indigenous artists, featured below, who consulted with their elders and employed their own sacred symbols to convey the Christian message.

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