I was recently approached by a school in Aotearoa New Zealand to create an image for their community. They specifically requested Jesus, Mary and Joseph (Catholic Church tradition names the trio as the Holy Family or the Earthly Trinity). The school really wanted to honour the school's charisms and the diversity in the school community by having an image that visually showed the three depicted in a modern way, as Māori people, and with a teenage Jesus. They also wanted to weave in the Catholic faith of the school…. An easy task right - o boy!
Note: There are two versions of the image; the one shown below, plus an original painting that is slightly different just for the school.
As with any project, I recognise the importance of listening. With this piece, the more I listened the more I realised that my deep respect continues to grow for the Māori culture, its spiritual traditions and the Māori people (past, present and future). Also... I have much more to learn on many fronts! Normally I would have more consultation for a project like this, but due to covid restrictions and time limitations this project progressed as best it could in these unique times.
After also listening to one of our very wise Sisters I decided to not give this piece a Māori name myself but will name the image Invitation. I have tried to depict Jesus in his youthful wisdom inviting us to listen, to learn from the Māori people, to let God guide us today with open hearts. God is in all cultures: I pray that this invitation may invite us to listen to indigenous people on whatever land we may find ourselves. Perhaps as church, we may embrace this respect as part of our present and future focus on sydnodality?
Christian scripture certainly invites us to welcome and listen...
(Scripture Translation: Inclusive Bible Translation)
"For I was hungry and you fed me; I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me;" Matthew 25:35
"Come to me,
all you who labour and carry heavy burdens,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon your shoulders
and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart.
Here you will find rest for your souls,
for my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
“Accept one another as Christ accepted us, for the glory of God.”
"In Christ, there is no Jew or Greek, slave or citizen, male or female. All are one in Christ Jesus."
"Remember this, my dear sisters and brothers: be quick to listen, but slow to speak and slow to anger..."
Cultural representations are always a delicate balance for artists. It seems to me that creatives must do their/our humble best with vulnerability and hope to keep learning and keep doing better with every piece; one image/song/poem at a time. My deep hope is that this image may invite others that identify as Māori or as another indigenous culture to create an image/song/poem of what God might look be to them. We certainly need more art that better honours the beauty, goodness and truth of indigenous people/cultures and how our Christian faith is connected today.
Essentially this Invitation image was created to help grow creative expression, listening and connection to the divine for all.
I won’t describe all the details because there’s a story for you to listen to and discover as the viewer. Just a few Image notes:
Jesus invites us to go with him; in our grief, joy and everything in between. He is our guide.
Jesus is linked physically and spiritually to the earthly Father and Mother.
The use of light and halos historically tells the story of divinity.
Many symbols throughout the image to ‘read' including the hand placements, the colours, carvings and patterns.
The Kōmiromiro (tomtit) bird is known as the bringer of good news (Read more).
The legend of the Kōmiromiro (Read more)
Listen to sound records of the Kōmiromiro (Read and Listen)
I hope this Advent, Christmas and beyond that, we may remember the Māori phrase tō/ō taringa (listen more carefully). Taking a synodal approach, listening with vulnerability as Jesus, Mary and Joseph did. While listening to and honouring the indigenous people on the land that we find ourselves; now and in new ways into the future…
Meri Kirihimete (Merry Christmas)
Kia hora te marino, Kia whakapapa pounamu te moana, kia tere te Kārohirohi i mua i tōu huarahi. May the calm be widespread, May the ocean glisten as greenstone, May the shimmer of light ever dance across your pathway.
PS - Thank you!
As we wrap up another year I would also like to thank you all for the support this year. I am humbled by the purchases through the shop + the new sign-ups to the Connection e-Newsletter from around the world.
We (myself and my congregation) will keep listening to the spirit and to where the needs are. So, please do let me know if there are images that you feel your community needs in the future. I'll do my best to stay safe, keep creating and keep listening - my prayer is that you join me too. ~ Arohanui, Jane
Purchase high quality Prints or Greeting Cards of this image through the SHOP