Utrecht University, 14 and 15 June 2018
Convened by Birgit Meyer (UU) and Jeremy Stolow (NIAS, Concordia University)
See below for the abstracts
Associations between light and divine presence are ancient and widespread, and can be found in religious traditions around the world, including cults devoted to solar deities, from the Ancient Egyptian Ra to the Aztec Tonatiuh to Ancient Persian Manichaeism, among many others. As a perceptual experience, a metaphor, or an instrument of devotional practice, cosmology, and mystical technique, light in its various modalities – clear, colored, radiant, glowing, shining, and even blinding – has played a central role in histories of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Neoplatonic mysticism, as well as in Buddhist and Hindu esoteric traditions, to name only the most well-studied. The association of light with knowledge, wisdom, insight, justice, and the good, and the absence of light (darkness) with ignorance, secrecy, deception, corruption, or evil are likewise familiar tropes that can be found in diverse religious contexts and have played out in European imperial outreach and informed missionary projects across the world. In the history of Western metaphysics, culminating in so-called Enlightenment philosophy, ‘clear’ light serves as a common metaphor for the mind’s capacity for orderly thought, true perception, and self-awareness, and ‘transparency’ provides the metaphorical ground for identifying that which can be known and shared, and thus a fundamental condition of possibility for democratic deliberation. As argued in a long line of Western philosophy and esotericism going back to Aristotle’s notion of the media diaphana, light is typically also colored, and differences in color are associated with different natural (and supernatural) powers to influence minds, bodies, and souls, not least as manifested in healing techniques.
A vast scholarship has been devoted to exploring and analyzing all these tropes of light as they are figured in religious textual and ritual traditions, but for the most part this work is rooted in methods of textual hermeneutics, and thus has little to say about how experiences and ideas of light are worked out on the ground. Also, historians of science, technology, and media have concerned themselves with the ways light is produced, manipulated, directed, or even expunged through different instruments and technologies: lenses, windows, mirrors, cameras, lanterns, curtains. This work has generated important insights into the role of light-mediating technologies in diverse scenes of scientific observation, urban nightlife, theatrical performance, spectacle, cinema, etc, but scholars have rarely applied those insights to the particularities of religious practice.
We propose to convene a transdisciplinary seminar that will bring together scholars with diverse perspectives on the topic religion and light: as metaphor, as technology, as material practice, and as a medium of perception. What is the relationship between, on the one hand, the figure of ‘light’ as a key trope within different religious textual traditions and modes of artistic representation, and on the other hand, the concrete practices and perceptual experiences of religious actors who make use of specific light- bearing techniques and technologies? In posing this question, we are especially interested to examine how the nexus of religion and light offers new insight into the practices and experiences of religious actors in the context of broader political-religious settings. How, for instance, do varying uses of light play out in tensions and clashes between religion and reason? How does ‘light’ mediate the representation of the unseen in different religious traditions, and how do those mediations shape distinctions between art and religion? How are light and darkness framed in specific religious regimes, and what moralities do they underpin? How is light employed in relation to non-“enlightened” others (such as in the history of Christian missions and colonial administrations)? What about the use of light as a medium for visibility and – with extreme intensity – invisibility? To what extent and in what ways, are visual technologies incorporated in practices of religious and scientific mediation, and what do they make (in)visible? What is the relation between light, (in)visibility and power?
FIRST DAY: 14 JUNE 2018
9:30-10:00 OPENING COMMENTS
– Jeremy Stolow (Concordia University)
10:00 – 11:40: Session One: LUMINOUS BEINGS
Birgit Meyer (moderator)
* Christian Lange (Utrecht University). Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: Light and Luminous Being in Islamic Eschatology
* Wendy Shaw (Freie Universität Berlin). The Simurgh: Platonic Light and the Icon of Irrepresentability
11:40 – 11:50. COFFEE BREAK
11:50 – 13::30. SESSION TWO: LIGHT AND COLOUR
Katja Rakow (Utrecht University): Moderator
* Jojada Verrips (University of Amsterdam). Transilluminations: Making the Transcendent Transparent
* Eyad Abuali (Utrecht University). Light, Colour and Synaesthesia in Sufi Thought and Practice
14:30 – 16:10 SESSION THREE: PROJECTING LIGHT
Jeremy Stolow (Concordia University), Moderator
*Frank Kessler (Utrecht University). Projecting Faith: French Catholics and the Magic Lantern c. 1900
* Katja Rakow (Utrecht University). The Light of the World: Mediating Divine Presence through Light and Sound in a Contemporary Megachurch
16:10 – 16:20. COFFEE BREAK
16:20 – 18:00. SESSION FOUR: NIGHT-TIME AND ITS BORDERS
Birgit Meyer, (Utrecht University), Moderator
* Lotte Hoek (University of Edinburgh). ‘Schemeren’: Dusk as Metaphor and as Practice
* André Chapatte (Zentrum Moderner Orient, Berlin). Deep into the Night the Silence becomes Light: An Ethnography of a Nocturnal Solo Zikr Practice in the Provincial Town of Odienne (Ivory Coast)
FROM 18:00: DRINKS + SUPPER
SECOND DAY: 15 JUNE 2018
9:30 – 11:40. SESSION FIVE: AURA AND DAZZLEMENT
Jeremy Stolow (Concordia University), Moderator
*Bissera Pentcheva (Stanford University). Aura: The Synaesthesia of Sound and Sight in Medieval Liturgy
* Heike Behrend (Universität zu Köln) ‘Glittering Women’: Light, Aura, and the Aesthetics of Withdrawal in Popular Photography on the East African Coast
* Almút Shulamit Bruckstein (Independent Scholar). Dreams of Light Cones and Love: On Ancient War Machines, Letters That Dress Up and a Madonna Who Pretends to be an Optical Machine
11:40 – 11:50. COFFEE BREAK
11:50 – 13:30. SESSION SIX: DIVINE LIGHTS FROM AFAR
Peter Geschiere (University of Amsterdam), Moderator
* Joseph Tonda (University of Omar Bongo). Les éblouissantes lumières du christianisme en Afrique noire
* Peter Lambertz (German Historical Institute Paris). (In) Touch without Contact: Healing through Japanese Divine Light Channelling in Kinshasa (DR Congo)
14:30 – 16:10. SESSION SEVEN: ON THE METAPHYSICS OF WHITENESS
Pooyan Tamimi Arab (Utrecht University), Moderator
Craig Koslofsky (University of Illinois). Light, Whiteness, and the Worlds of the Early Enlightenment.
Ulrike Brunotte (Maastricht University). ‘The perfect Whiteness of the Snow’: The Symbolism of Color and Light in the Works of Edgar Allan Poe
16:10 – 16:20. COFFEE BREAK
16:20 – 17:00. CONCLUDING COMMENTS
Birgit Meyer (Utrecht University)
Abstracts (in alphabetical order)
Eyad Abuali. “Light, Colour and Synaesthesia in Sufi Thought and Practice”
Light is an enduring image in Sufi thought. It is associated with knowledge and mystical gnosis, and serves as a metaphor for the prophet Mohammed and God himself. While such metaphors are often clear and perhaps even universally understood, our insight into the actual experience of perceiving light within Sufi thought and practice is less intelligible. Visions play a central role in Sufi thought and practice. In the 12th/13th centuries, the Kubrawī school of Sufism (originating with Najm al-Dīn Kubrā d. 1220) developed a systematic psychological framework which stratified the coloured lights, or photisms, which the Sufi may perceive along the spiritual path. Such experiences were understood to be a result of meditative practices which consisted of constant repetition of formulaic phrases in praise of God, or dhikr. For the Kubrawī Sufi school, this is often presented as a synaesthetic relationship where the sound of dhikr induces a visual perception of light. Moreover, these colours act as diagnostic tools, with each colour corresponding to a certain state of the Sufi’s soul. This organisation of lights and colours does not emerge spontaneously amongst the Kubrawiyya, rather it is developed through the adoption of elements from Islamic theology and philosophy. In this period, Sufis began to theorise more systematically their mystical experience, both sound and vision were important senses which helped the Sufi achieve spiritual completion. However, in doing so, Sufis required the stratification of the senses into hierarchies, allowing them different roles at different points in the spiritual journey. The social and historical significance of mystical Sufi experiences, whether visual or auditory, has often been diminished as they are considered to be phenomena which are deeply personal. By contrast, this presentation will argue that understanding the development of sensory and colour theory offers important insights into the development of Islamic thought and society. These developments accompanied the increasing importance of Sufism in the 12th and 13th centuries which witnessed the transition of Sufi communities into orders. Hence, the emergence of systematic Sufi understanding of the senses, visionary lights, and oneirology in this period are directly related to significant developments in Islamic thought, as well as important societal changes in the history of the Islamic world.
Heike Behrend. ‘Glittering Women’: Light, Aura, and the Aestetics of Withdrawal in Popular Photography on the East African Coast
There is a proverb in Swahili that “a woman without glittering is no good, though all that glitters is not gold”. During weddings and specifically in wedding photographs photography as act and object of the ritual creates a specific quality that could be called “auratic”. In my contribution, I attempt to show how in the context of a globalized bridal industry wedding photographs destabilize the relation between aura and art à la Walter Benjamin. I will explore how aura as a specific brightness and glare that gives to see while blinding and dazzling at the same time, is produced in wedding photography on the East African Coast. I am interested in complicating the concept of (visual) mediation inscribed into the camera by connecting it to local practices that have perfected an aesthetics of giving something to see and at the same time withdraw it from visibility, “before the eyes and out of sight”, as Benjamin characterized it. Against the background of a reformist Islamic revival along the coast (and elsewhere in the world), I will also deal with what I call the “aesthetics of withdrawal” that in various ways attempt to control what is given to see (and what not) in the wedding process.
Ulrike Brunotte. ‘The Perfect Whiteness of the Snow’: The Symbolism of Color and Light in the Works of Edgar Allan Poe
At the end of a long and weary sea journey to the South Pole, the last survivors of the Black island Tsalal find themselves within dreamlike scenery of warm, milk-white sea. Caught by the current of a white Maelstrom, they ‘rushed into the cataract’… but there arose a ‘shrouded human figure, whose skin was of the perfect whiteness of the snow’. This eschatological vision at the border to the unknown world and the images of impenetrable whiteness at the end of Poe’s novel The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym are the starting points of my talk. As Toni Morrison remarked, Poe’s symbolism of whiteness needs contextualisation within North American color discourse to explain its ‘extraordinary power, pattern, and consistency’ (1993: 33). However, the (non-)color white has also a long religious tradition and two remarkable qualities: it has an opposite, black, and it refers to light, whereas black has been connected to its absence. My talk aims to question the relations between the poetic, the religious-metaphysical and the racist discourse on color dichotomies. Leading questions are: How does Poe combine notions of ‘pure white poetry’ and violent (self-) destruction beyond Gothic Romanticism? How does the fictive immersion into absolute whiteness connect a parody of the Puritan millennial search for purity with an existential crisis of differentiation and imagination? What role does the intertwinement of the apocalyptic and the racist dichotomy of ‘black’ and ‘white’ play within this story in Antebellum America? I will discuss the novel against the backdrop of Poe’s more general use of color symbolism in his stories of terror. His radical modern minimalism confronts readers with a nearly abstract preponderance of white, gray and black, followed by red. My special interest is his use of a blackness of darkness as well as a radiant, nearly blinding white as symbolic and formal narrative devices. The overarching motto of Poe’s work is the twofold metaphor of the black and white Maelström.
Andre Chapatte. Deep into the Night the Silence becomes Light: an Ethnography of a Nocturnal Solo Zikr Practice in the Provincial Town of Odienne (Ivory Coast)
In Islam, the night is understood as a spiritual time par excellence. The Quran was revealed to Muhammad during the night. Muslim scholars say that deep into the night God goes down to the lower sky to hear people’s demands. While most family members are asleep, fervent Muslims thus wake up to practice supererogatory prayers. Madou (pseudonym), for instance, started to practice nocturnal zikr (recollection of God) when he was eight years old while undertaking traditional Quranic studies in southern Ivory Coast. After fifteen years of Islamic studies, Madou settled in Odienné to become an official Islamic preacher of a powerful Muslim association. In 2018, Madou nonetheless still organizes his daily life around the nocturnal practice of solo zikr. Madou goes to bed after the fifth regular Islamic prayer. He then wakes up at 00h30 to get ready for 3 hours of solo zikr. Helped with the silence of the night as well as with the flagrances of incense and perfume, Madou then focuses his mind to murmur thousands of times names of God and this without stopping until the call of prayer for the first regular Islamic prayer. He then goes back to bed between 8 am and midday to complete his sleeping need. Based on an ethnography of Madou’s preparation for and practice of nocturnal solo zikr, this paper explores Madou’s Sufi-influenced practice as a sensory bodily experience of focused presence. Hardships encountered in the course of this demanding practice attract God’s ‘hinè’ (pity) and help its practitioners to enter into ‘Yelen’ (Light); but Madou warns: ‘God can help you to approach the Light, however, God is not the Light!’ Through Madou’s experience of and discourse on the ‘Light’, this paper explores the potentialities and limits of the metaphor of light in describing the experiences of faith and God among Sufi-influenced Muslims in West Africa.
Lotte Hoek: “Schemeren”: Dusk as Metaphor and as Practice
As day becomes night, dusk obscures and reveals in equal measures. The fading light has been metaphorically fertile and socially conducive. This paper takes up experiences and practices of dusk to explore how dimming natural light operates as an interstitial moment in which the half-light unbinds and disrupts social relations and orders. Reading through popular literature, newspaper varia and advertising from the turn of the 20th century Netherlands and Netherlands East Indies, I juxtapose the metaphoric connotations of dusk, the semi-shade that provides fertile ground to describe anything from political malpractice to Islam in contemporaneous accounts, with the practice of ‘doing’ dusk as it emerges alongside them. Thinking through the half-light allows me to consider dusk as a medium of social and religious practices and habits.
Frank Kessler. Projecting Faith: French Catholics and the Magic Lantern c. 1900
On October 15th, 1902, the first issue of the monthly journal L’Ange des projections lumineuses was published in Lyon. The journal’s purpose was to disseminate information on all practical and technical issues related to the projection of magic lantern slides, but also on how this medium could be used to propagate Catholic faith. Its aim was to make known the art of projection and to help all those among the Catholic clergy who wanted to employ the lantern in their parishes by informing them about the equipment to buy, about how to operate it and the about lantern slide sets they could use. The journal also provided texts to be read during the projections. L’Ange des projections was but one of the journals published by the French Catholic Church to promote the use of optical media, n particular the magic lantern, but also the cinematograph. The Catholics soon had established a real network that allowed them to cover the whole of France. The goal was not to foster religious convictions all over the country, but also to fight the opponents of the Church: the socialists, the organisation of laicist teachers, the freemasons. This paper will discuss the way the magic (or optical) lantern was used by the French Catholic Church. It will look at the practical recommendations given to the practitioners of lantern projection, at the lantern slide sets that were highlighted in journals such as L’Ange des projections lumineuses, the kind of discourses that were suggested to be pronounced to accompany the screenings, and the ideological messages that were foregrounded, both those directed at the adversaries and those addressing the readers of the journals. An important question to be explored as well concerns the question to what extent the issue of “light” is alluded to in these publications, as it is clearly present not only in the title L’Ange des projections lumineuses, but also in others such as Le Rayon.
Craig Koslofsky. Light, Whiteness, and the Worlds of the Early Enlightenment
In my Utrecht presentation I’ll describe a series of very specific intersections between darkness, light, whiteness, and dark skin in learned discourse and popular culture in the crucial period from the 1660’s to the early eighteenth century. At each of these intersections, old attitudes about the night and physical lack of light were voiced alongside new categories of human difference based on skin color, Christianity, civility, and reason: all key components in the formation of early modern whiteness and Enlightenment. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the artificial lighting of streets, domestic interiors, and Caribbean sugar works promoted and reflected nocturnalization, the central concept of my 2011 study Evening’s Empire: A History of the Night in Early Modern Europe. My new research shows how physical and figurative uses of light and darkness in the Caribbean shaped the framing concepts and rhetorical strategies of important works of the early Enlightenment. In my presentation I’ll examine early Enlightenment thought in terms of light and whiteness through three popular texts: Bernard le Bovier de Fontenelle’s Entretiens sur la pluralité des mondes (Conversations on the Plurality of Worlds) of 1686, John Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690), and Balthasar Bekker’s De betoverde weereld (The World Bewitched, 1691-4). In these works, which reached wide audiences, changing attitudes toward light intersect with changing attitudes toward dark skin and Caribbean others especially vividly.
Peter Lambertz. (In) Touch without Contact: Healing through Japanese Divine Light Channeling in Kinshasa (DR Congo)
After a first wave of popularity in Zaire in the 1980s, the Japanese new religion Sekai Kyûseikyô (Church of World Messianity) was reimported to Kinshasa from Angola and Brazil in 2001. The movement lends its followers the possibility to perform an overall aesthetic difference within the heavily Pentecostalized urban setting of Kinshasa. This is trained during the spiritual healing ritual of “Johrei” (Jap. purification of the soul), which is key to the movement’s attraction in Kinshasa. “Johrei” consists of channeling invisible “light” through the body and palm of a transmitting person, who is in touch with the divine energy from Japan. This light is invisible and thus requires to be rendered present. This works by stimulating the senses with a variety of things, which touch and engage the human sensorium, both during the transmission of Johrei and, as a result of it, in dreams. In my presentation I try to show how Messianiques sensorially ‘clothe’ themselves in the atmosphere, or indeed in the ‘light’ of their things, ranging from the Goshintai calligraphy to the Ohikari amulet, the practitioner’s body and his/her hand. Next to the level of sensory experience and the body, local intellectual elaborations about how these material things, and thus the healing process as such, actually work, are part and parcel of this process of ‘making present’: thus, when practising Johrei, practitioners imbue or ‘charge’ their so-called ‘aura’ with aesthetic difference, which, in the context of Kinshasa, is considered to be a protection. By combining historical and ethnographic reflexions on spiritual conceptions of “light” in Central African, Japanese and New Age healing traditions, the paper offers insights into the ways in which difference is lived, embodied and spiritually conceptualised in the contemporary African city.
Christian Lange: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: Light and Luminous Being in Islamic Eschatology
For theologians, to conceive of God in terms of light has some undeniable advantages, in fact it is a compromise solution, allowing a middle-of-the road position between the two extremes of thinking about God in terms of a purely disembodied, unfathomable, unsensible being, and of crediting Him with a body, possibly even a human(oid) body. Conceived as light, God is visible, but also formless, given that light has no shape; He is palpable, because His warmth can be experienced haptically, but He also remains intangible, untouchable by human hands; He is ‘traceable’ in space, seeing that light emits rays, but He also remains uncircumscribed, aperigraphos (to use the term from Hellenistic philosophy). Light, in other words, offers an an appealing solution to the age-old opposition between transcendentalist and anthropomorphist positions, a problem that in Muslim theology pitches the anti-anthropomorphist Mu’tazili and Ash’ari theologians against the Hanbali ‘traditionalist’ theologians. While the Mu’tazilis hold that God has no body at all, and the Ash’aris that He does have a body, but a kind of body that can be comprehended by the human mind only imperfectly, the Hanbalis insist that God, in a straightforward manner, does have a body, and that by consequence He is located in space. In fact, He is above us, in the sky. References to God as a light seen in the hereafter occur in both Hanbali and Mu’tazili/Ash’ari texts, but it’s probably fair to say that they are far more prominent in the latter. In this presentation, I will discuss two major, late-medieval compilations of hadiths about the afterlife, by the Ash’ari compiler al-Suyuti (Egypt, d. 1505) and by a Mu’tazili compiler, the Shi’i scholar al-Bahrani (Bahrain, d. 1695), in order to examine how God and other luminous beings in the hereafter are portrayed in these sources. Time permiting, I may also compare these two texts with a Hanbali traditionalist compilation of eschatological hadiths.
Bissera V. Pentcheva. Aura: The Synaesthesis of Sound and Sight in the Medieval Liturgy
We think of aura as light, an aureole of splendor surrounding the faces of the saints or aura in Benjaminian terms as the charisma of the original masterpiece of the visual arts. Less often do we associate aura with sound. Starting with the meaning of the word in Latin, this paper uncovers the complex medieval phenomenon intertwining sight and sound coaxed into presence by the liturgy. The resulting glittering vision and reverberant acoustics make the metaphysical sentient but removed from anthropomorphic figuration. The aura appeals to the imaginary, while fueling the desire to touch and grasp. Among the examples addressed in this study are the victory hymns for the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross sung in Constantinople’s Great Church, the Exultet ceremony performed in Southern Italy, and the golden altars for the Eucharistic ceremony in the Latin West.
Katja Rakow: The Light of the World: Mediating Divine Presence through Light and Sound in a Contemporary Megachurch
Many of today’s prominent megachurches are known for their high-end audio, video and production lighting systems used to create a specific worship service atmosphere as well as offering ‘live’ broadcast quality. Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, is no exception. During the renovation and reconstruction of the church venue from former basketball stadium to church auditorium, the church hired professional companies to design and outfit the auditorium in order to turn “a thunderous basketball arena into an intimate place to worship the Lord” (Cobus 2005). The result was the development of a specific lighting scheme that departed from traditional church lighting practices to create an intentionally theatrical effect that would result in similar emotional responses in the live congregation and the TV viewership. My presentation will look at the lighting technology ‘behind the scenes’ that is used to orchestrate a specific worship atmosphere in order to invite the congregation to a personal encounter with God. I will analyze how lights on the ceiling, in the auditorium and on-stage interplay with sound, vision, and space in order to structures the worship service and to mediate divine presence.
Wendy Shaw. The Simurgh: Platonic Light and the Icon of Irrepresentability
The notion of light in Islam is often framed through the famous Qur’anic passage of light, the “surat al-nur,” which offers a metaphor for the apprehension of the divine as a light within a niche that requires no flame. A second imagery of light emerges through the tradition of the twelfth-century Platonic, illuminationist, mystical thinker Shahib al-Din Yahya Suhrawardi (1154-1191). Influential in the Persianate realms of Anatolia and Central Asia, his thought parallels iconography dominating the epic poem The Language of the Birds (1177) by Farid ud-Din Attar. Central to this work is the Simurgh: a bird who is the object of the quest depicted in the story, but impossible to see, let alone represent. Numerous manuscript paintings in the Islamic tradition represent the Simurgh through iconography adopted from the Chinese Phoenix: a large, multicolored bird with extravagant plumage. Yet this depiction belies the description in the poem of the Simurgh as light itself — multicolored, ubiquitous, and yet weightless and impossible to represent. This paper argues that through the writings of Suhrawardi and ‘Attar, the Simurgh functions as an icon of the impossibility of the icon. Every time we see its image, the viewer must remember the presence of a God who cannot be seen. It argues that the frequent reappearance of the Simurgh throughout the Islamic tradition suggests an iconography of light that coexists with that of the Qur’an, not as competition so much as explication of how we, as humans, are to apprehend the divine within the quotidien.
Almút Shulamit Bruckstein. Dreams of Light Cones and Love: On Ancient War Machines, Letters That Dress up, and a Madonna Who Pretends to Be an Optical Machine
This contribution investigates some aspects in the relationship between creation and creativity, light and shadow, veiling and unveiling, dizziness, and the undoing of perspective in the critique of visual representation as understood by medieval mystics and contemporary artists. The point of departure is radically subjective: a dream dreamt between two psychoanalytic sessions in which the flashlight of the analyst fails to enlighten the hidden scene of a forbidden love. Bruckstein reads elements of this dream in the context of medieval and contemporary non-linear, associative thinking techniques, connecting it to Talmudic matters of war machines and nomadic lines of flight, and to texts by Jacques Lacan, Elliot R. Wolfson, Talmud Bavli, Heike Behrend, Pavel Florenskij, Birgit Meyer zum Wischen, as well as to selected works of contemporary art. Her material of dreams and texts get connected to two art works in particular: a madonna hodegetria theotokos perforated by text splinters from the history of optics, architecture, and capitalism conceived by the Beirut artist Tony Chakar in his work “The Discourse of the Last Things Before the First” (2017); and the installation “Domain of Things” (2017) by Columbian artist Pedro Gómez Egaňa in which the artist’ hidden movement upsets the entire set up of a “house” on stage. The work of Tony Chakar was presented in his recent solo-show “As in a Beginning” at the Van Abbemuseum Eindhoven this year, the work by Pedro Gómez Egaňa in the exhibition “Anytime Now” at Tent Rotterdam lasting til June, 2018. Bruckstein may develop sketches of an imaginary exhibition during her presentation, called IKONES, yet to be conceived.
Joseph Tonda. Les éblouissantes lumières du christianisme en Afrique noire
L’idée que nous voudrions développer dans cette communication est que la mission d’évangélisation et donc de conversion chrétienne en Afrique participe d’un travail qui devait sortir les Noirs des ténèbres de la nuit. Mais les missionnaires porteurs de ces lumières étaient loin de penser que les éblouissements que ces lumières produisaient allaient donner lieu à des résultats inattendus. Par exemple, que ces missionnaires devaient être vus comme des trafiquants des âmes des Africains en direction de l’Occident et donc comme des donneurs de mort. Ils étaient aussi loin d’imaginer que les prophètes africains allaient reprendre en charge leurs messages pour faire des prophéties dont celle-ci : demain, les Blancs seront les Noirs, et les Noirs seront les Blancs. Ces prophètes prophétisaient une mutation chromatique symbolique ou réelle, mais qui nous rappelle le sérum de lactification dont parla Frantz Fanon. Cette mutation est inséparable de la puissance technologique, puisque la science est son secret. Un secret que les Blancs auraient volé aux Noirs, comme la Bible secrète des Noirs. Dans le prophétisme de Monseigneur Zoaka, que j’ai étudié il y a plus d’une décennie, il s’agit précisément d’un livre que Marion, un Blanc chef de chantier au Gabon, qui selon Monseigneur Pascal Zoaka, avait détourné un livre que Jean-Baptiste lui destinait afin qu’il puisse aller partout, dans le monde, lutter contre la sorcellerie. Le livre est ici la Lumière qui doit éclairer le prophète qui devint fou et prophétisa à Marion : « Aujourd’hui, nous les Noirs, nous nous occupons de vos casseroles, demain, c’est vous qui vous occuperez de nos casseroles. » Cette inversion des Lumières est aussi visible dans le pentecôtisme.
Jojada Verrips. Transilluminations: Making the Transcendent Transparent
Chapter 21 of the Book of Revelations contains a detailed description of the New Jerusalem as a city full of divine light and built on a foundation of brilliant minerals. In the gothic cathedrals built in the Middle Ages this radiant and transcendent place was often represented in their stained-glass windows and so made partly visible by the incoming and always changing sunlight. In this paper light will be shed on the use of stained glass as a transilluminatory device or medium to make the transcendent transparent. Next to the imagery of the New Jerusalem, attention will be paid to chandeliers representing this holy city as well as to windows with the sacred heart and the remarkable stained glasswork the Belgian artist Wim Delvoye, by many considered to be blasphemous.