Business Day Live | Chris Thurman:
I got into trouble the other day for telling a Twitter acquaintance of mine that his pastor is “full of sh*t”. I’m usually mild-mannered and tend to avoid using Anglo-Saxon four-letter words in public. But Twitter has a weird effect on one’s sense of social etiquette. Suffice it to say that I apologised — for the language, if not the sentiment.
A broad church: Detail of a Dumisani Mabaso print in the Rorke’s Drift exhibit. Picture: CHRIS THURMAN
What was it that got me so riled? A summary of a sermon that read: “It is not a mistake to be born poor. It IS a mistake to remain poor.”
The pastor in question, with his new take on the God-wants-you-to-be-rich message, hasn’t been reading his Bible carefully. Nor, for that matter, is he versed in economic theory. While it’s true that those who escape poverty often do so through their own agency, poverty is systemic and rarely attributable to individual “mistakes”.
Anyway, doesn’t the Good Book tell us that “you will always have the poor with you” — in other words, wealth of some is dependent on the deprivation of others?
Certain strands of Christianity have done a lot of damage in Africa. The renewed anti-gay legislation in countries such as Uganda and Nigeria and homophobic sentiment across the continent are partly attributable to the influence of “fundamentalist” American charismatic churches, spreading the message that homosexuality is immoral.
We know all too well, of course, that Christian proselytising went hand-in-glove with colonialism; it was used as a justification for sending European “civilisation” into all corners of the world, veiling the extraction of resources, the exploitation of labour and the expansion of markets that in fact drove colonisation.
But there is another side to missionary history. It is a history of opposing oppression, of empowering the dispossessed, of educating the disenfranchised. It is there in Lovedale College and the various mission schools out of which the intellectual tradition behind South Africa’s revolution grew. It is there in the South African Council of Churches and other faith-based organisations that were central to the struggle against apartheid. It is there in the Evangelical Lutheran Church Art and Craft Centre. An initiative of Swedish missionaries, the centre opened at Maphumulo in erstwhile Natal in 1962; it moved to Rorke’s Drift the following year and developed into a Fine Art School. For two decades, in quiet defiance of the state, Rorke’s Drift was a haven for black artists. It is still an arts and craft hub.
Weaving and pottery were the dominant forms in the early years of the centre, as they were considered “useful” arts. But equally significant were the print-making facilities. For Impressions of Rorke’s Drift — The Jumuna Collection, at Museum Africa in Newtown until May 25 (the exhibition moves to the Iziko South African National Gallery in Cape Town at the end of July), curator Thembinkosi Goniwe has put together a selection of prints made at the Rorke’s Drift studio from the mid-1970s onwards. Many of the linocuts and etchings have a hieratic quality and conform to the clichés of “African missions art”: illustrations of biblical episodes, rural scenes (lots of cows) and abstract works.
Some document local events, others portray private and anonymous, almost archetypal relationships — mothers and children, love triangles. There is evidence of art-as-activism in printed messages that plead for education or resources, but only in Sandile Conrad Zulu’s depictions of townships or informal settlements, of Manual Labour and Eviction, do we have a sense of the political forces driving the material conditions under which black South Africans were forced to live.
One might also trace the influence of modernism and cubism (or consider how African “aesthetics” and artistic traditions influenced European high modernism). Some pieces seem both linguistically and conceptually simplistic — notably those by John Ndevasia Muafangejo. Highlights include the haunting faces in Vincent Baloyi’s Sangoma, Smokers and Looking Back, Sam Nhlengethwa’s self-portrait and C Madubela’s bold use of colour.
Read this and other interesting art-icles via source: http://www.bdlive.co.za/life/entertainment/2014/04/24/jumuna-collection-shows-role-of-missionary-art-in-sa-history