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Transgressive Transformations through Art

Panel Chair: Lidia Guzy | Monday, August 24, 3:30-5:30 p.m. | Venue

This panel addresses the transformative and transitional power of artistic expressions in indigenous and marginalised cultures. The ethnographic studies presented here discuss art and artistic production as a potent medium of social and ritual transformation. The panel comprises members and collaborators of the newly created Marginalised and Endangered Worldviews Study Centre (MEWSC), UCC as international forum to promote engaged and philanthropic scholarship for an inclusive and reflective global society. MEWSC is emerging as a genuinely critical think tank on contemporary global forms of marginalisation. The centre fosters the study of non-hegemonial worldviews and forms of oral, performative and visual techniques of knowledge transmissions often devalued by cultures of literacy and texts. MEWSC focuses on three regions: Brazil, Eurasia (Eastern Europe and Russia, Siberia), and India.

James Kapalo

“And the Archangel Michael looked just like me!”: Visual Media and the Re-presentation of Divinity in Moldovan Radical Religion

This paper explores the power of the visual to contest and subvert dominant religious beliefs and doctrines. Through an exploration of Inochentism and Archangelism, ‘home-grown’ religious movements in twentieth century Moldova, I trace the power of visual media, when combined with folk narratives, prophesy and visionary literature, to contest state and church authority, embody the sacred and transform belief. The two movements discussed, driven underground by communist regimes in Romania and Moldova, deployed visual media in the form of vernacular icons, photographs and photomontages, as powerful tools for critique during periods of persecution by the state. Based on interviews with members of these movements between 2011 and 2014, on secret police archival sources and on Soviet propaganda publications, I examine how, under the pressure of atheist ideology, relations between divine and human, this world and the next, and the material and immaterial were re-imagined and embodied by Moldovan village people.

Stefano Beggiora

Aspects of Saora Ritual: permanence and transition of the artistic performance

This paper discusses the ancient technique of art performance of the wall paintings called ‘anital’ among the Lanjia Saora of southern Orissa (India). Through the wall-painting, the group strengthens the covenant between the living and the dead. The subject of this art form is highly symbolic and usually tells a dream or vision of the shaman that portrays the subtle world. Since the advent of Christianity, the ‘anitals’ have become a target of persecution among the converted because they embody the tribal identity of the past. The recent revival of indigenous works and initiatives developed by NGOs tend to replicate the arcane motifs of anitals, identifying them as purely ‘tribal art’ deprived of its ancient authentic religious value. Despite the current period of profound social change, I will demonstrate how the traditional technique is still alive and how it is possible to decrypt them through knowledge of Saora culture.

Claire Scheid

The Donyi-Polo Creative Collective: The Role of Artists in the Formalization of Adi Religion

The Adi of the Siang districts of Arunachal Pradesh, India, in the far Eastern Himalayan foothills, practice an indigenous religion known as Donyi-Polo (Sun-Moon). Since the mid-1980s, community leaders have been actively restructuring Donyi-Polo through 'formalization' initiatives such as the institution of a religious governing body, the canonization and printing of religious texts, the unionization of shamans, and the construction of prayer halls. This religious reformation has also included the introduction of iconographical depictions of deities (previously represented only by straw and bamboo structures) and the composition of new tunes for prayer songs. This paper, based on interviews with the artists, will discuss the creative collective of painters and musicians who worked with the movement’s founder, Talom Rukbo, to produce these new media for Adi religious expression that are still widely incorporated into worship today in the Siang districts and greater Arunachal Pradesh.

Lidia Guzy

Transformative Power of indigenous Adivasi Art in Indian Society

This paper explores the recent emergence of a new artistic genre, the indigenous Adivasi Art in India, which especially through the medium of museum exhibitions transforms the general image of socially marginalised and culturally discriminated indigenous Indian communities. The emergence of “Adivasi Art” changes the socio-ritual creator of local visual expression into a nationwide recognised artist (kolokar). An official recognition of a “forgotten” and “neglected art” in national cultural institutions such as museums is an expression of a socio-political emancipation and empowerment process of hitherto marginalised and devalued Adivasi communities. The paper discusses the socio-political process of art creation as a key transformative socio-political power.


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