By Grace Hooley | Echo
"Art is not just an interpretation or facsimile of history, but a moral force in the production of a new reality, and hope for a damaged society," Okwui Enwezor, one of Africa's art critics, said.
From 2013 until 2018, the "Between the Shadow and the Light" art exhibit has been portraying what hope looks like in a broken society, and will be showcased this winter at Taylor University in the Metcalf Gallery.
In June of 2013, 10 art professors from Christian institutions in the U.S. and 10 artists from six African countries ventured into a two week seminar in South Africa. During their time in South Africa, an overheard the phrase, "between the shadow and the light" inspired the 20 artists and professors to create a traveling art exhibit. It was a statement that resonated with most of the group regarding issues of racial reconciliation.
"We have to find a way of navigating the reality that: in this life, from a Christian perspective," said Rachel Smith, curator of the exhibit and art professor at Taylor. "We are walking in this darkened place - this fallen place, but we are trying to move toward the light, toward what God really wants and intended for this world."
Smith was a part of the group of 20. She believes that this exhibit will give viewers an opportunity to look at their own social contexts in a new light. One of the most difficult themes for some on the trip was the idea of identity. Whether it was a mixed heritage or having been born in one country and living in another, each person had to reconcile their own idea of identity
Smith believes that this is the right time for an exhibit like this to come to Taylor. She says that these pieces will inspire conversation about topics such as race and identity.
"One of the challenging issues in bringing (this exhibition) to Taylor is that until the last year, many people felt like these issues of racial reconciliation and dealing with our history were . . . finished projects," Smith said. "Those of us who've been involved in work like this recognize that that's not the case. Clearly, everything has bubbled to the surface."
The exhibit highlights African history and draws on America's history in regards to minority groups. Five of the main themes within the display are remembrance, resistance, reconciliation, representation and re-visioning.
Remembrance focuses on the connection between histories. Resistance looks at the traditions of art throughout time. Reconciliation unpacks the questions of how to make peace with those who have been mistreated. Representation looks at post-colonial societies and who is portrayed. Lastly, revisioning focuses on the idea of hope and how it affects artists.
"This question of 'how do we understand who we are?' and these different aspects of our background and framework for living in the world and in relationship to other people (were) significant theme(s)," Smith said.
The hope is that the art exhibit would force viewers to look beyond themselves into a time and culture that may not be familiar to them. According to Smith, this exhibit will also help us think of how to walk from this dark, fallen earth into light.
"This is learning about another part of the world and what it has to teach us and other people, and it's just a really invigorating process for me recognizing that there are both differences but also striking similarities as we're part of the human family," Smith said. "So, moving into this kind of deep engagement in trying to begin and understand another place and people is just a really natural thing for me to do."
Even though this exhibit raises more questions than answers, Smith hopes that the conversation will encourage artists to look at ways that they can benefit the society around them.
"Between the Shadow and the Light" began with artists daring to challenge questions about race and identity. Taylor will be its 16th stop. Even though the exhibit ends in this coming year the artists hope that the thoughts and conversations surrounding its topic will continue until the shadow meets the light.
"This exhibit offers an opportunity to grapple with really complicated realities," Smith said. "(It) suggests ways forward in trying to understand things that are never black and white."
The Art Department will be hosting several of the artists, one of whom is originally from Ghana, on Nov. 10. Be on the lookout for feature stories on the artists in the coming week. For more information or to arrange a guided tour contact the art office at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 765-998-5322.