Religion and Spirituality: Death and Life Beyond

Carl Abrahams - The Ascension (c1978), AD Scott Collection, NGJ

Carl Abrahams – The Ascension (c1978), AD Scott Collection, NGJ

The current Explorations II: Religion and Spirituality exhibition is organized around six broad, overlapping themes, with a gallery dedicated to each theme. Here is the text panel for the sixth and final gallery, titled “Death and Life Beyond”

Most religious beliefs are crucially concerned with finding meaning in death and thus advance particular conceptions of life after death and this gallery features examples of works that engage in various ways with these subjects, from the perspectives of mainstream Christianity and popular African-derived religion and for other metaphorical purposes.

David Pottinger - Nine Night (1949), Collection: NGJ

David Pottinger – Nine Night (1949), Collection: NGJ

One of Christianity’s central tenets is the self-sacrifice of Christ, by means of his death by crucifixion and his subsequent resurrection and ascension, for the sake of the ultimate redemption of humankind. This perspective is represented here by Carl Abrahams’ Ascension (1978) and Ralph Campbell’s Judgement (1974), both of which interpret mainstream Christian iconography of these subjects, and, from a less conventional perspective in Lawrence Edward’s Rapture (1992). David Pottinger’s haunting Nine Night (1949), in contrast, evocatively captures how the spirits of the deceased are ushered into the beyond in Revival culture, and Revivalist conceptions of the ascent of the spirit are also represented, albeit in a more festive manner, in Mallica “Kapo” Reynolds’ Revivalist Going to Heaven (1968).

Mallica "Kapo" Reynolds - Revivalist Going to Heaven (1968), Larry Wirth Collection, NGJ

Mallica “Kapo” Reynolds – Revivalist Going to Heaven (1968), Larry Wirth Collection, NGJ

Anna Ruth Henriques’s enigmatic Coffin (1994), which is decoratively encrusted and encloses a treasure-trove of religious images and various inscriptions and objects, appears to provide a meditation on the multiple cultural meanings of death and the universal but also very personal experience of mourning and loss. This experience of loss is poignantly represented in David Boxer’s Pieta for Phillip Hart (1985), a moving memorial to a colleague and friend. This work appropriates conventional religious iconography to address other issues, in this case one of personal significance, a strategy which is also used, with political intent, in Eugene Hyde’s Good Friday (1978, on view in the entrance to this section), an indictment of the socio-political turmoil that overwhelmed Jamaica in the late 1970s.

Eugene Hyde - Good Friday (Casualties, 1978), Collection: NGJ

Eugene Hyde – Good Friday (Casualties, 1978), Collection: NGJ

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