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Wafae Ahalouch, Trinity: Kuyper Revisited

ArtWay Visual Meditation November 13, 2022

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Wafae Ahalouch, Trinity: Kuyper Revisited

The Trinity of Head, Heart and Hand

by Marleen Hengelaar-Rookmaaker

In the academic year of 2020-2021 the Free University in Amsterdam celebrated its 140th year of existence. Abraham Kuyper was the founder of this university, while in 2020 it was also 100 years ago that Kuyper died. Moroccan artist, Wafae Ahalouch, received the commission to make an artwork to mark the Kuyper year. This resulted in the tapestry Trinity: Kuyper Revisited, which was hung at the entrance of the Free University’s auditorium. 

Who was Abraham Kuyper? Kuyper (1837-1920) was a theologian, pastor, statesman and journalist. He was the founder not only of a university but also of the first political party in the Netherlands, both of Reformed persuasion. He stood at the cradle of a new Reformed denomination and he was the godfather of a renewed and updated Calvinism: neo-Calvinism. In 1901-1905 he was prime minister of the Netherlands. The website of the Free University: “The way in which the apparently inexhaustible Kuyper gave new form to society in politics, education, the church, science and the press remains a source of inspiration. Not only for the Free University, but also outside of it.”

Already early on Kuyper was looking for an integrated Calvinistic worldview, in which all his knowledge, convictions and activities could merge into a coherent whole. The basis for this coherence is formed by the idea that Christ is the sovereign Lord over all of reality. Kuyper moreover considered each area of life to have its own independent, God given authority, such as the state, the family, the economy, the church, religion and also art. Every sphere is irreducible to another, obeys its own laws and grows to maturity only when it can develop independently and in complete freedom. What is unique in Kuyper’s Christian conceptual framework is that art constitutes an inextricable part of the whole and that it sees the aesthetic sphere as an essential element of human life.  

Ahalouch’s tapestry gives us a fine visualization of Kuyper’s idea of coherence. In the title ‘Trinity: Kuyper Revisited’ the artist speaks of a trinity, alluding to the connectedness of the head, heart and hand. She says: “I knew Abraham Kuyper as a statesman, but not as a philosopher or theologian. That’s why I delved into the Free University’s archives. There I came across one of his pronouncements: ‘God created a magical unity between the mind, heart and hand.’ I was touched that he mentioned the heart. The mystical character of the heart seems to transcend the religious man that he was.” Ahalouch found this three-part unity to be applicable to her own life and art as well as to all of human existence. All three are necessary to be a complete human being. This also applies to the Free University, where students develop themselves not only as scholars and professionals but also as human beings.

In the tapestry’s center sits a yellow-edged square. Inside the square we see the outlines of the heads of a man and a woman, an anatomical heart, and two hands holding pens that have drawn lines that continue a long way. It is significant that it is two writing hands that stand for ‘the hand’, as Kuyper’s writing made up a large part of his pursuits. The square is placed within a pentagon, from which a three-pointed projection protrudes at the top and the bottom.

Each of these elements is partly or completely filled with black, white and orange beams. We also see two orange cloudlike structures. The clouds, the circus-tent-like stripes, sharp black lines, geometric patterns, and primary colours are a returning feature in the work of Ahalouch. They draw on the visual language of the graphic novel. They add a light-footed, relativizing note to the work and lend it a non-elitist character, which Kuyper definitely would have appreciated. About the colours she says: “In colour theory orange stands for spirituality and yellow for energy and God’s light. In the work yellow is literally a frame for the human relationship that is connected with the heart, knowledge (the head) and science (the written).”

The outward directed points and beams create a dynamic effect of emanation, enhanced by the erupting orange clusters. They seem to point to Kuyper’s great influence. He was not an introverted scholar, but a man with a huge determination to help his country and fellow believers forward. This influence was not limited to just one area, but went in several directions, as indicated by the three large arrows. From here it is not a big step to see in the black, white and orange stripes the spheres of life that are so characteristic of Kuyper’s thinking, in which he differentiated between all areas of society and life and accorded each its own place and value. Thus the artwork pays tribute to Kuyper’s faith driven engagement – with head, heart and hand – with all of reality.

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Wafae Ahalouch, Trinity: Kuyper Revisited, 2020, 3 x 4 m, tapestry, Free University Amsterdam. Source photo 1: VU Magazine; source photo 2: Tapestries – Wafae Ahalouch el Keriasti (wafae-ahalouch.com).

Wafae Ahalouch El Keriasti (Tanger, Morocco, 1978) lives and works in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. She graduated from HKU University of the Arts Utrecht in 2001, followed by residencies at De Ateliers and later Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten, Amsterdam (among others). She has received national and international recognition in the form of various fellowships, stipends, and awards, including, in 2003, the Koninklijke Prijs voor Vrije Schilderkunst (the Dutch Royal Prize for Modern Painting). Over the course of her career, her work has been shown in solo and group exhibitions at venues inside and outside the Netherlands. www.wafae-ahalouch.com

For an article about Kuyper and art, click here

Marleen Hengelaar-Rookmaaker is ArtWay’s editor-in-chief.

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ART NEWS INTERNATIONAL

ADVENT AND CHRISTMAS WITH ART & THEOLOGY – The season of Advent begins Sunday November 27 this year and is followed by the Twelve Days of Christmas, culminating on Epiphany, January 6. During these six weeks Victoria Jones of Art & Theology will be publishing daily posts, each centered on a visual artwork and a piece of music that hopefully will promote contemplation and prayer around the seasons’ themes, around the narrative of Christ’s coming. If you’d like to receive these posts in your inbox, enter your email address on the Subscribe page. This will subscribe you to the blog as a whole, but you can always unsubscribe afterward if you want to stick around for just this one series.

VCS ADVENT GROUP RESOURCE PACKS – Last year VCS offered VCS Advent Group Resource Packs. For those new to the VCS, we are offering the same packs again this year. The pack is designed for those meeting together over Advent, such as church groups, and contains material for four sessions, including accompanying videos by VCS team members. These sessions draw on VCS exhibitions exploring key Advent themes. If you would like to receive these resources, or to find out more about the sessions, please email vcs@kcl.ac.uk. Please note that these are the same resources we offered last year. Twitter: @TheVCS; Facebook: @www.theVCS.org; website: www.TheVCS.org

ATELIER PLUS ROMANIA – Online exhibition of contemporary art by members of the Romanian Christian artists society Atelier Plus. Atelier Plus invites you to view the online exhibition CREATION, 11 November 2022 – 10 December 2022. Artists: Liviu MocanIurie CojocaruRadu PopCristina MarianAdi Hunyadi, Bogdan Vaida, Valentin Dodica, Eunice Gall, Katalin HajduPetru Leahu. Click on a work for information. View here

PODCAST A WOMB MORE SPACIOUS THAN STARS – In a Yale Center for Faith & Culture podcast art historian Matthew Milliner discusses how Mary’s beauty and presence upends the patriarchy and stabilizes Christian spirituality: “Don’t you dare think that somehow your conversation with Mary and your interest in her is in competition with your relationship with Christ. You are flirting with heresy if you do not have a doctrine of Mary as mother of God.” Listen to the podcast

KLC PUBLICATION THE BIG PICTURE MAGAZINE – Issue 05 out now! Order in print (UK only) or download free digital PDF. Issue 05 explores, among other things, the theme of journalism. Curated by KLC's Research Fellow in Communication, Media and Journalism, Dr Jenny Taylor, the edition includes five excellent pieces on the topic. Issue 05 also explores the many ways Christ is present and playing in art, poetry, spirituality, preaching the Gospels, film, current affairs, human finitude and more. Download digital PDF here

HOW TO CREATE ARTISTIC COMMUNITY – A virtual discussion for young artists of faith, November 14, 8-9pm EST (online). Evangelical Fellowship of Canada´s Love Is Moving Magazine is partnering with RENEW Arts + Theology for an evening of thoughtful discussion on how to build an artistic community. RENEW Arts + Theology is an organization that seeks to create a community of artists motivated by the Christian faith. Fine artist and Love is Moving columnist Josh Tiessen will be interviewing the panelists, as they dialogue about the arts, theology, and life, and how RENEW seeks to help empower artists and develop their God-given gifts. This event will include friendly group discussions with other Christian young adults across Canada, but is open to all ages and geographic locations. Join us on November 14 and learn how you can build more vibrant arts communities in your context that reflect the teachings of Jesus. Register here: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/how-to-create-artistic-community-tickets-449402945307

BEN QUASH LECTURE – 6 December, 19.30 h, University of Gloucestershire, Lecture Theatre FCT001, Francis Hall Campus, Swindon Rd, Cheltenham: Making (Reception) History: A Visual Commentary on Scripture. Ben Quash, Professor of Christianity and the Arts at King’s College London, will present the 20th annual lecture for the International Centre for Biblical Interpretation, speaking on reception history and a visual commentary on Scripture. To reserve a free place, email Professor Philip F. Esler at pesler@glos.ac.uk 

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VIRTUAL ARTIST RESIDENCY - 2023 Inbreak Residency: Led by Dea Jenkins, the organization Inbreak, which promotes social healing through the arts, is hosting its third annual (virtual) residency, open to US-based artists of any discipline interested in exploring the intersections of art, faith, and race in the United States. The residency provides a collaborative environment and opportunities for artistic development and creative leadership growth, with group workshops, group feedback sessions, studio visits, and a curriculum featuring a curated selection of viewings, readings, and dialogue prompts. It culminates in a live or virtual exhibition. Applications are due by November 20, 2022; you are required to submit work samples, an artist statement and/or short bio, and a community-focused project proposal. Four applicants will be selected for the 2023 cohort, which runs from January to May, and each given a $500 stipend.

THE GLEN WORKSHOP 2023 – The Glen Workshop, hosted by IMAGE, combines the best elements of a craft class, arts festival, and spiritual retreat. Held July 16-22 in Image’s home city of Seattle, USA, the Glen offers community, challenge, and encouragement for writers, visual artists, art-lovers, and spiritual wayfarers who want to grow in their craft, wrestle with questions of art and faith, and connect with others who share their passions. Morning classes provide the opportunity to do a deep dive into a specific artistic discipline or conversation with an acclaimed mentor. Afternoons and evenings feature a variety of activities that can include readings, film screenings, concerts, open mics, and more. More info

REGENT COLLEGE CHRISTIANITY AND THE ARTS – Integrative theology for artists, writers, and creatives at Regent College, Vancouver, Canada. Is there such a thing as Christian art? Is it any good? What's the role of the Christian artist? Can an artist be faithful to both creative vision and theological conviction, or does something eventually have to give? Explore these questions and more as you learn what it means to integrate faith and art effectively and authentically. The Christianity and the Arts Concentration can be completed as part of our Master of Arts in Theological Studies. Read more

SANDRA BOWDEN EXHIBITION - 29 October – 22 December, Barrington Center for the Arts, 255 Grapevine Road, Wenham, MA, US: Sandra Bowden is showing her series "Reflections of Glory" at the Gordon College Art Gallery. The series carries out a conversation of connections to pay homage to major icons of European painting. Bowden’s gilded encaustic panels refer to distinct shapes of historic work (for example, Roger van der Weyden’s Deposition), but because of their solid gold surface, allow the viewer to delight in the radiance of each panel, while drawing on memory and imagination to fill in the forms. Mo – Sa, 9-17 h. https://www.gordon.edu/gallery

LAKWENA MACIVER EXHIBITION - 12 November – 19 March 2023, The Weston Gallery, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, West Bretton, England: Lakwena Maciver: A green and pleasant land (HA-HA). YSP presents an immersive solo exhibition of new painting and textile works by Lakwena Maciver. Vibrant colour and bold text combine in Lakwena’s joyful and gently subversive work. Her paintings, murals and installations often reference everyday shared experiences and popular culture, such as songs, fashion and basketball. Bringing messages of hopeful possibility, Lakwena speaks to points of connection and commonality between people, with a utopian vision that dreams of redemption and liberation. In the Acholi language of northern Uganda her name aptly means ‘messenger of the chief’. Hours: https://ysp.org.uk/visit-us

PUBLICATION L’EGLISE ET LES ARTISTES DEMAIN - Publication du Colloque des 10 ans de Narthex : L'Eglise et les artistes, quels enjeux pour demain ? Ainsi qu'une pierre blanche sur notre route, la publication du recueil des interventions du colloque des 10 ans de Narthex est une étape importante qui s'est concrétisée sous la forme d'un 'Documents Episcopat' édité par la Conférence des évêques de France. Cet ouvrage permet de prendre connaissance de la teneur très dense du colloque qui s'est tenu le 20 novembre 2019, sur le thème : « L'Eglise et les artistes : quels enjeux pour demain ? », réunissant des spécialistes reconnus du monde de l'art ainsi que des artistes. Cliquez ici pour commander le Documents Episcopat sur le Colloque des 10 ans de Narthex !, € 8,00.

For more exhibitions, lectures, conferences etc., click here

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ARTWAY: OPENING EYES, HEARTS AND MINDS


Other recent meditations:
- November 2022: Michael Felix Gilfedder: Blue Madonna
- October 2022: Dominik Schleicher: Abused, No Further
- October 2022: Fernando Botero: Head of Christ
- October 2022: Paul Hobbs: Saint Mercy - Nigeria

For more Visual Meditations, see under Artists