Art Finds Its Nook at Synod on Africa

Gospel’s Dialogue With Culture Given Expression

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By Carmen Elena Villa
VATICAN CITY, OCT. 15, 2009 ( In addition to the intense hours of interventions and open discussion, the cardinals, bishops and guests at the synod on Africa also have the opportunity to appreciate art from the continent.
In breaks for coffee or lunch, the synod fathers have been able to find inspiration in an exhibition of African religious paintings.
The «Wedding at Cana, Celebrated by African Tribes,» painted by Joseph Belly Malenga Mpasi of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the «Deliverance of the Chained Angel,» by Zeleqe Ewnetu of Ethiopia are some of the works that can be seen at the entrance of Paul VI Hall.
The exhibit was organized with the support of the Centro Orientamento Educativo (COE), an association of Christian lay volunteers working in Italy and other countries to develop a culture of dialogue, exchange and solidarity.
ZENIT spoke with the exhibition’s organizer, Joseph Atangana Ndzie, who works as COE’s coordinator in Cameroon. For him, the exhibition intends to show «the Christian heritage of the African faithful.»

In fact, he explained, the exhibit is the fulfillment of a dream of COE’s founder, the late Father Francesco Pedretti, who wanted the display for the first synod on Africa, held in 1994.

«It is a tribute to the synod and to the founder,» said Atangana.
Universal language
The exhibition’s organizer, who studied art at Rome’s Pontifical Urbanian University, emphasized that in each work, one can see how the artists express «the universality of Christianity and the Catholic identity of the African faithful.»

«There is a communion of feelings,» he said. «When someone sees this art, there is a universal language that can express devotion. A singular participation in man’s expression to God that enriches the universality of the Church.»
For Rosa Scandella, president of COE, this exhibition lets one see how African artists can be «prophets who with their works cry out the values and ideals of men on this continent, often tormented by historical situations but still capable of building the future.»
The exhibit turns one of the main conclusions of the first synod on Africa into a reality: dialogue between the Gospel and African culture.
And, as Atangana said, it displays that African characteristic of «expressing their religiosity with their whole body, with their nature. It is a joyful and simple faith. It is an expression of life.»

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