The following is a review of the art exhibition “Born of the Word’s Mouth” which ran from 28 April 2017 until 27 May 2017 at the Carmelite Priory Mdina.
If during this intense election campaign one is looking for some respite, then the latest art exhibition at the Carmelite Priory Mdina offers the opportunity for some calmness and reflection. On April 28, 2017, the Friars inaugurated the collective exhibition entitled Born of the Word’s Mouth. It is their latest instalment, out of many activities commemorating the 450 years’ anniversary of Saint Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi.
For many when compared to Saint John of the Cross and St Teresa of Avila, Saint Mary Magadelene de’ Pazzi is an unknown figure. Even for the Order itself, the life of the saint is poorly appreciated. In their pursuit of authentic exploration, the friars brought together 12 local and foreign contemporary artists. Through her writings, the artists were invited to sit with the Saint and shape their own objet d’art. The end result is a collection of 20 artistic pieces ranging from paintings, photography, digital prints, sculpture, and conceptual art among others. Each piece glimpses upon a particular facet of the Saint’s soul with some choosing to exhibit the suffering accepted for love, as in the case of Mark Schembri’s Afflitione del’Corpo. Whereas Damian Ebejer through Worldly Defiance was stirred by the Saint’s strong temperament in a violent politically dominated context. For Ebejer she rose to the demands of her contexts and stood in the half-way of life and death carrying a robust expression and an eternal unchanging resolution.
One particular artefact entitled …wara 431 sena… seems to be capturing the curiosity of many visitors. Inspired by performance art, viewers are met with a chair, a novice scriptorium, an inkwell, a buonamorte crucifix, the letters written by the Saint, and the answered correspondences. Visitors are encouraged to participate by going through the objects displaced and slowly come to see that her original letters imbued with fervour criticism towards her political-religious context were only answered recently, after 431 years. Out of fear of hostility upon the female monastery, the original letters composed at the age of 20, when she was still a novice, were either ignored or held back from her superiors. Quite daring and with the intention of justifying the Saint, the present prior at the Mdina Priory took the risk of resending these same letters to the successors of the original addressees. The response was received containing excitement and wonder. When the reality of such events hit the visitors they in turn also responded in unpredictable ways. Some have expressed empathy and disbelief, while others felt anger for noticing how even today female outspoken activists are still met with hostility and suspicion. They come to appreciate how Saint Mary Magadelene de’ Pazzi’s message is still relevant in today’s political scenarios.
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