Tuesday, 25 November 2014

"Oriental Christians" Exhibition

This is another free exhibition that I decided to take a peek at after I saw it sponsored inside the church of San Luigi dei Francesi.
Presented as "Les Chrétiens d'Orient", it's an exhibition of pictures taken from the friars of the Domenican order & Co. during their missions in Middle East.
The exhibition is hosted in the basement of the close-by Institut Français and it's been organized in collaboration with École Biblique et Archéologique Française of Jerusalem, the Dominican order, the Pieux Etablissements de la France à Rome et à Lorette and the French Embassy in the Holy See.
In a time where the conflict for interests in being turned into a conflict of religions, I think that it's interesting to look at the work of the Christian preachers in the Middle East, how "our" religion was interpreted and lived according to the local culture and how, most importantly, how religion is not an instrument to turn people into warmongering idiots, but on the contrary, it's supposed to enrich and rekindle everyday's life.

As I said, the pictures come from the archives of the École Biblique et Archéologique Française of Jerusalem, and they cover the period of the Dominican missions in the Middle East: photographical reports of the life of Christians native of Palestine, Jordania, Lebanon and Iraq.
The "adventure" of these missions started in the XIX century, when scholars and missionaries approached the matter with the excitement of investigating the people who shared the cultural background of Jesus, and then developed into a study in archaelogical and antropological interest.

All the pictures of the exhibition were taken by the friars themselves, so they are not professional shots, but you can still feel the vivid interest and curiosity for these people so different yet to similar to us, and all the derived suggestions.

For example, when I see such shots in such locations, I can't help but thinking about the same very places where Christianism had its very origin--
Thinking about the Jerusalem, the Nazareth or the Bethlehem of Jesus times, I picture these sceneries exactly.

This is an extremely interesting picture portraying the construction of the basilique of Saint George in Lebanon.
Not just for the lovely Eastern style of the architecture, but also for the scaffoldings!

A picture showing a procession in Palestine:
I see no differences from any procession happening in Southern Italy...

This is an interesting shot: it portrays a boy who's wearing Franciscan clothes according to a vow made by his mother:
This kind of vows are still very frequent, and they are usually made to ask for a male son during pregnancy, or to grant him good health if sickly.

A picture of two boys practicing "English boxe" in an Italian oratory:
The stance is really interesting, so different from the boxe of today-- And it's not such an old picture, it dates around the 20s.

To attend a Christian school or to become a seminarist meant entering in contact with the Western culture.
Here's a lovely picture of the seminarists before taking part in a French play:
It was very curious, 'cause they really enjoyed the plays of the Middle Ages, probably because of all the "cavalry" thing... It's fun to note how also the female roles were played by boys, according to the use.

Another popular activity was that of the musical band:

Of course it was the most prestigious group and the one that everyone longed for.
The musical band took part in every celebration or event of the city, not just religious ones, but also to greet politics or ambassadors from foreign countries and the like.
In the second picture you see the boys during an excursion. Some of them brought their instruments over, a sign of how much they loved them.

In this shots you can see the "making" of the famous oranges of Jaffa:
Dutch and German missionaries encouraged its commerce and the export to Europe, the first case of massive economical interchange between Middle East and Europe.

In the end, I want to end this short but -I hope, pregnant post with a picture of a living "nativity scene":
The photographer asked some local Christians to pose, but unfortunately they couldn't get a cow-- Yet, it's one of the most pregnant and suggestive shots of the exhibition...

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