It was 2004 after my initial journey to West Africa that I was first exposed to Janet McKenzie’s multicultural art. It took me being a minority to feel the cognitive dissonance and realize how prevalent and out of place European art was in churches I visited in Ghana and Nigeria.
Here’s the thing. It only bothered me after I literally put myself into the shoes of the people around me and saw how narrow a perspective is reflected as Jesus in all his whiteness hangs on the crucifix when every person in the community is black.
The stark reality is that, as a white American woman, I stood out. As a child, I learned I was made in the image and likeness of God. Everything I saw reinforced that MY God was white and male… UNTIL I was exposed to a broader and deeper perspective. Travel accelerates shifts in one’s point of view.
The image above is “Epiphany” by Janet McKenzie (used with permission of the artist). In Holiness and the Feminine Spirit: the Art of Janet McKenzie, Katharine Jeffers Schori explains, “Epiphany is usually framed as ‘revelation to the nations,’ so that the good news of God in human flesh is available to all the peoples of this earth, not only the nation in which Jesus was born. The traditional way of understanding the wise ones who come to pay homage to the baby born in Bethlehem is that there must have been three, for three gifts are named, but also that they represented the known regions of the ancient world: Africa, Asia, and Europe…(Janet McKenzie) invites us into yet another awareness of what it means that Jesus is born for the whole world. All of humanity is represented in these figures: yes, women! (by whom we all come into the world)…This is about the ancient wisdom and ministry of women caring for other women as new life is brought into the world.”
Our worldview colors what we see. Katharine Jeffers Schori poses a question that each of us might ask ourselves today, “Where do we meet and acknowledge and bless God in our midst? That is the largest challenge Epiphany presents. It seems most often to be about finding God in the unexpected and surprising.”
What has to happen for us to be the wise men and wise women of our day?
Jefferts Schori, Katharine. “Epiphany.” Holiness and the Feminine Spirit: The Art of Janet McKenzie. Ed. Susan Perry. New York: Orbis Books, 2009. 46-50. Print.