Brite presents Art as Catechesis

June 3, 2014

The power of images to shape and transform human ideas and emotions is well known.  Because of that, long-standing debate over the appropriate use of images – or whether to use images at all – has been part of the church’s history since its earliest days.  The Iconoclastic Controversies of the 8th and 9th centuries in the Orthodox churches and the rejection of image use in the life of the church by most Protestant reformers demonstrate the veracity of the debate. Reformers like Martin Luther recognized the effectiveness of images for teaching and continued their use.

Within the Christian community, catechesis is the educating of new converts in the doctrine and practice of the faith.  The prints on display here were created to assist in teaching the faith to individuals in West Africa, with particular attention to the Mafa people of Cameroon.  Known as the Vie de Jesus MAFA, the project was the brain-child of Francois Vidil, a member of the Little Brothers of the Gospel.  Working with local residents, he staged the various scenes and photographed them as the artist sketched them. The photographs and sketches were used by the artist, Benedite de la Ronciere, to create the art on which the prints are based.  The prints contextualize the gospel in a particular space and time, making a powerful link between those hearing the stories and those about whom the stories are told.

Acquired during their many years of service to the church in Africa, Dan (M.Div., 1963) and Sandy (1960-1963) Owen presented numerous prints from the series as a gift to Brite Divinity School in February 2014.  The framing andisplay of the prints have been provided by the Ralph E. Stone Fund for Religion, Theology and the Arts.

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