Washington National Cathedral partners with caravan for the U.S. premiere of an interfaith arts exhibit designed to build bridges of respect, understanding, and sharing between the creeds and cultures of the East and West.
Siona Benjamin will exhibit Shekinim, painted fiber glass and mixed media, 2014.
AMEN: A Prayer for the World seeks to express a deep, fundamental acknowledgment of both power and hope for all people. The participating artists each decorated one of the life-sized fiberglass sculptures. Thirty figures painted by Egyptian artists were previously on display in Cairo. These figures join 18 figures painted by Western artists for a joint exhibition at Washington National Cathedral; all 48 figures then continue to St. John the Divine.
Taking the concept of the Ardha-narishvara and the Shekinah as parallel concepts from what appears to be two distinctly different religions, I see apparent similarities. I chose the muslim prayer form, a familiar posture to me since I was raised in a Hindu and Muslim India. But I was raised Jewish in India, therefore I could look at all these fascinating religions and their beliefs and cull from their beauty and wisdom, inserting this into my art. I am a transcultural artist now living in America, trying to build bridges through my art making process. A turquoise blue skinned person, a symbol in my art of a trans-national being who belongs everywhere and nowhere at the same time. The blue from the sky and the ocean is anywhere and everywhere in this world, thus making him/her cross and merge boundary zones.
The female is the right half and the male the left. The Teffilin is like a Taveez to me and no different. Each is bound with faith and belief, each is a ritual in prayer, both bring their God closer. How can I separate the two, offsprings of the same father, brothers in bondage, sons of war, stigmata of memory. Taking flight, poised to take off, wind beneath my wings of glory and not of shame.
Meanings of symbols:
Ardha-narishvara (Sanskrit: अर्धनारीश्वर), is a composite androgynous form of the hindu god Shiva and his consort Parvati. This is depicted as half male and half female, split down the middle. The right half is usually the male Shiva, illustrating his traditional attributes. It represents the synthesis of masculine and feminine energies of the universe (Purusha and Prakriti) and illustrates how Shakti, the female principle of God, is inseparable from Shiva, the male principle of God. The union of these is the root and womb of all creation. Ardha-narishvara symbolizes that male and female principles are inseparable and conveys the unity of opposites in the universe. Purusha is the male principle and passive force of the universe, while Prakriti is the female active force; both are constantly drawn to embrace and fuse with each other, though separated by the intervening axis.
Shekinah is the feminine essence of God in Judaism. The Shekinah is held by some to represent the feminine attributes of the presence of God (Shekinah being a feminine word in Hebrew), and based especially on readings of the Talmud. Taken from the Hebrew word שׁכִינה (shekhinah) which means "God's manifested glory" or "God's presence". This word does not appear in the Bible, but later Jewish scholars used it to refer to the dwelling place of God, especially the Temple in Jerusalem.
Tefillin are a pair of black leather boxes containing Hebrew parchment scrolls. A set includes two tefillin—one for the head and one for the arm. Each consists of three main components: the scrolls, the box and the strap. The scrolls are inserted into boxes made of leather that have been painted black. One box is strapped on your head, and the other onto your arm next to your heart.
The Taweez (Urdu: تعویز) is a locket usually containing verses from the Quran or other Islamic prayers and symbols.The Taweez is worn by a small minority of Muslims and many Sufis with the belief that it will remove the wearer of any evil or affliction put on them through black magic, keep them safe and also bring good luck.
Washington National Cathedral is a house of prayer for all people called to serve as a spiritual home for the nation. It seeks to be a catalyst for spiritual harmony in our nation, reconciliation among faiths, and compassion in our world. Learn more at www.nationalcathedral.org
The exhibition is co-curated by caravan founder/president, the Rev. Paul-Gordon Chandler, and Reda Abdel Rahman.
CARAVAN is an interfaith arts nonprofit organization created to encourage intercultural and inter-religious dialogue through the arts: www.oncaravan.org »