Saturday, 6 August 2022

In drum and dance, in strings and instruments

In Drum and Dance, in Strings and Instruments - In the rock-carved churches of Lalibela in Ethiopia, by Vassilis Artikos.

at the Byzantine Museum, Athens.

There is a complex of eleven monolithic churches, carved out of volcanic rock  in the town of Lalibela, in Ethiopia, dating between the 9th and 14th centuries. These churches are considered the eighth wonder of the world, and in 1978 they were inscribed on UNESCO's World Heritage List. They are a significant site of pilgrimage. 

The title of the exhibition is taken from Psalm 150; 4-5: 'Praise him with the timbrel and dance; praise him with stringed instruments and organs. Praise him upon the loud cymbals; praise him upon the cymbals of joy'.

In the 65 photographs presented in the exhibition, Vassilis Artikos has captured the extraordinary beauty of this site that he visited repeatedly, while observing the pilgrims who flock to Lalibela by the thousands on the occasion of the great Christian festivals. The faithful, wearing white robes and holding sticks to facilitate their difficult journey to the holy shrine, gather at dawn in the rock-cut churches to take part in the liturgy, where elders and deacons chant and dance slowly, to the sounds of drums and percussion instruments.

The photographs are presented along with paintings of the monophysite community of Ethiopia.

It's an extraordinary exhibition of an extraordinary place - we were spellbound. You get a real sense of the communities in the area, of the pilgrims on their journey, of their way of life. What I loved most is the faces of the people, as they were captured by Artikos lens.

I have posted far too many photographs, but could not help myself - each one is a gem.

One of the churches and the pilgrims flocking to it.

The paintings:

Religious painting from Ethiopia (eleven scenes from the Christological cycle), painting on fabric, 19th century

Secular painting from Ethiopia (depiction of a religious procession), painting on fabric, 19th c.

Secular painting from Ethiopia (six scenes from everyday life), painting on fabric, 19th century

Religious painting from Ethiopia (Saint Aragawi and Archangel Michael, in the painting style of Ethiopian hagiographer Gelantius (18th c.)), 19th century

Secular painting from Ethiopia, (depiction of wild animals hunting), painting on fabric, 19th c.

The photographs:

The photographs have such a strong Biblical feel to them - this one for instance, the sky at dawn, the people on the ground, it's like the day of creation


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