Skip to content

Tag: religie

The Bible as Floral Pattern

Bijbelsmuseum by Vera Bartels

By John Boy. The Bijbels Museum, a museum dedicated to the Bible founded in 1852, is located along the Herengracht in the center of Amsterdam. Finding myself with a few free hours one afternoon during a recent stay in the Dutch capital, I decided to tour the museum, notebook in hand. Wikipedia encumbered me with the knowledge that the museum’s public funding was subject to debate several years ago because “it has not done enough to attract a more diverse (i.e., non-denominational) audience”—and by non-denominational, this Wikipedia author evidently means people with no denominational affiliation. How does the museum present the Bible in a city known for its museums, especially its splendid art museums? And, more importantly, how does it cater to an audience that may not hold the Bible in special esteem?

The answer apparently is to display lots of flowers, or at least it was at the time of my visit. The main exhibit on display in the Bijbels Museum was “Belief in Nature: Flowers with a Message.” We are in the land of tulips and hothouses, after all. So while the publisher of the postwar British publication The Bible Designed to be Read as Literature broadened the appeal of the Bible by presenting it as beautifully typeset literature, the Bijbels Museum seeks to do so by presenting the Bible as floral pattern. That’s a very unfair characterization, but a worthwhile comparison. As Talal Asad writes, “the way people engage with such complex and multifaceted texts [such as the Bible], translating their sense and relevance, is a complicated business involving disciplines and traditions of reading, personal habit, and temperament, as well as the perceived demands of particular social situations.” In the case of “the Bible as literature,” that complicated business had to do with the emergence of literature qua imaginative writing in the long eighteenth century. What complicated business is going on in the Bijbels Museum? How does it manage to translate the “sense and relevance” of the Bible in the pluralistic, secular-liberal setting of Holland?

Leave a Comment

“What is This?!” Framing Ghanaian art from the colonial encounter to the present

By Rhoda Woets “Sarenco is mafia,” said painter Almighty God (b. 1950) while he grabbed my arm and pulled me towards a black and white painting in the back of his workshop, “he also cheated other African artists.” We are in Almighty God’s extended open-air workshop at Suame junction, one of Kumasi’s jammed thoroughfares where an unremitting stream of cars and buses head further up North. A strategically positioned painting of a human figure, covered in blood, warns drivers on their way to the junction with the words “drive with care, over speeding kills.” During an enchanting tour among vivid paintings nailed to the white walls, palisades and wooden structures in his workshop, Almighty God told me that Sarenco owed him 4,200 dollars (US). But the contemporary African art “specialist” Sarenco never answered his phone calls; how should Almighty get his precious money back – all the way from Italy to Ghana? To underscore what he had just said, Almighty God pulled out his phone to dial Sarenco’s number in Italy once more. And indeed, no answer.