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Wonders of Co-Creation: Catholic Theology and Spirituality through African Art

Wonders of Co-Creation: Catholic Theology and Spirituality through African Art

By Patrick Mulemi SJ | Zambia Malawi Province

Lusaka (February 22, 2019): “Art is a story. Art is a living experience. Art is an impression of inner inspirations expressed outwardly through pieces of exquisiteness and mastery works of creation.” Thus begins the introductory remarks of Charity Salasini and Bedah Salasini, proprietors of Zeela Art Gallery in Lusaka, Zambia. The Salasini family have generously given a gift of liturgical artwork for the new chapel of the Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar in Nairobi, Kenya.

The Salasini family go on to say, “because art is a story, it needs to be shared. When art is a living experience, it deserves a special space in our everyday life.”

The president of the Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar, Fr Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator received the donation on behalf of the Jesuit of Africa and Madagascar. He also officially inaugurated the public exhibition of the artwork.

Present at the ceremony included the bishop of Monze Diocese in Zambia, Bishop Moses Haamungole; the Jesuit provincial of the Zambia-Malawi Province, Fr Leonard Chiti; and officials from the Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops (ZCCB). Others were Jesuits, local clergy and other religious. Lay colleagues and collaborators were also present in good numbers.

Sharing his personal impression, Fr Orobator says, “Zeela’s combination of nature, art and hearth made an instant impression on me. Zeela is a piece of Eden on earth – an artistic and creative re-creation of God’s original desire and purpose for our common home.”

Fr Orobator went on to praise the Salasini for their generous contribution to the mission of the Society of Jesus in Africa and Madagascar. He noted that, “present and future generations who will pray in the chapel where these pieces will be displayed will not only marvel at their beauty, but also honour God’s invitation to become co-creators of a new earth.”

The artwork donated by the Salasinis include: a statue of Mary carrying the baby Jesus on hear back in the Zambian way; the crucified Christ with a kingly crown of thorns; an altar; the presider’s stool; the tabernacle which is made in the form of a calabash; and the statue of Saint Ignatius the pilgrim.

As Fr Orobator observed, “every piece is a celebration of African cultural heritage.”

The Salasinis go on to say, “in a world of ‘us and them’, art is a bridge builder. It has the limitless capacity to fathom unity in diversity without fear or favour. The masterly embedded in art can create a convergence of diverse humanities, cultures and traditions marching together towards a common goal.”

In the “Wonders of Co-creation”, cultures of Western, Southern, and Eastern Africa converged to manifest the narrative that honours God’s invitation to become co-creators.

“On behalf of the Jesuits in Africa and Madagascar, I thank the Salasinis through whose generosity and creativity this journey has borne incredible fruits that would make us all exclaim with God, ‘It is very good!’”