Before words, there are images. Before reason, there’s love and courage. Before theology, there’s faith.
Radiant autumn leaves and crisp air outside; indoors, preparations are almost finished. My colleagues Jana and Sofia are carrying chairs around. Samia is away, waiting at the bus station to greet the participants. I’m laying a table with needles and threads of all colours; making a display of embroidery tambours along with pieces of cloth, cut to fit.
Morning workshop, preparations; photos Jana Jakob, Sofia Nordin
Just before 10am, they all arrive: twenty women of different faiths, ages and backgrounds, walking down the long slope to the school building by the lake. After coffee and an introduction round – followed by a moment of silence – we gather in the studio. Everybody is invited to use needle and thread to “draw” what they bring into this day of Art, Sisterhood and Interreligious dialogue.
Morning workshop: capturing inner images by embroidery;
photos Jana Jakob, Sofia Nordin
Another 45 minutes of concentration, intermixed with laughs and chatting… and so, the embroideries are more or less ready for presentation, accompanied by a few words from the maker.
Most of us have never met before, but as the day passes, we’re getting to know each other; our inner worlds revealed, by words and images.
Images from the soul; photos Jana Jakob, Sofia Nordin
Next comes lunch – and then another round of sharing. We take turns in listening to each others’ stories. Divided into smaller groups, and tutored by Jana, we practise awareness to factual experiences, to emotions and to inherent values; an exercise, which demands concentration but nevertheless leaves us light in spirit.
Coffee and fruit break; photo Jana Jakob
For the afternoon workshop I have prepared large sheets of cardboard, washing them repeatedly with Chinese ink. Now they cover a row of tables, assuring there’s space enough for everyone to stand side by side and paint.
First, some experimenting; trying out how wax and pastel crayons, acrylic paint and tissue paper go together with the dark background. Then, take a step back and look for what could emerge from those colour samples… Everybody takes her pick of a new starting point, and begins to work it out. As the individual paintings are expanding, brushstrokes suddenly meet and begin to intersect. How to handle the encounter? In some places, colours blend into each other. In other places, they form distinct edges. Then, again, some bordering fields may be overlayed by stars or connecting dots…
The larger picture unfolds. An adventure.
Painting workshop, process photos (above, photos by Jana Jakob and Sofia Nordin);
in-between spaces (below, photos HHW.)
The concept for this day of interreligious, feminist dialogue sprung from experiences of an ongoing study circle in Scriptural Reasoning; from a yearn for expanding methods and deepen insights. Also, from the awareness that love and courage can be recognized across cultural borders; that personal faith can be revealed without argument; that images can come to life.