Exhibitions on Art and Ineffability

Tablet by Christopher Chiavetta

Drake University’s Comparison Project hosts two exhibitions on art and ineffability during the month of November with opening events on Friday, November 7. The opening events feature poetic and musical performances of ineffability from 5:00 to 6:00 p.m. in Weeks Gallery, a gallery talk on contemporary abstract painting as a form of wordless communication at 6:15 p.m., and a concert by the jazz sax quartet New Third Stream Quartet at 7:30 p.m. in Sheslow Auditorium.

Everday Abstraction in the Anderson Gallery is an exhibition of contemporary abstract painting as a form of wordless communication. It features the paintings of five artists from across the United States. It will be on view through January 23, 2015. Visit the Anderson Gallery website for more information.

Weeks Gallery will display works by various artists, all of whom are responding to the theme of “ineffability” through painting, photography, sculpture, and mixed media projects. The exhibition entitled, Performing Ineffability: Art, Poetry, Music will remain on display through the end of November. An associated art installation in Scott Chapel will be on display from November 5 to 7.

Two of the poet-artists involved in the exhibition opening are also participating in events on Thursday, November 6. At 6:00 p.m. Christopher Janke lectures on ineffability in contemporary poetry, and at 7:30 p.m. Douglas Kearney performs from his recent work Patter and hosts readings from Drake’s Coalition of Black Students and Des Moines’s Run DSM. Both poetry events will be held in the Cowles Library Reading Room.

All events are free and open to the public.

Photos from the exhibition opening

Translating the Ineffable: How Hunters Hear and Talk to the Dead in Côte d’Ivoire

HellwegTranslating the Ineffable: How Hunters Hear and Talk to the Dead in Côte d’Ivoire
Lecture by Joseph Hellweg, Associate Professor of Religion, Florida State University

Thursday, March 27, 7:00 p.m., Cowles Library Reading Room

In the northwestern, Muslim area of Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), hunters communicate with a forest spirit, Manimory, and the spirits of other dead hunters through ritual sacrifices. The goal is to assure safe hunting. Since spirits cannot speak human language, they communicate through divinatory signs. They also send dreams to hunters. Hunters then translate these signs of the ineffable into human terms in order to hunt. Jewish, Christian, and Muslim theologians, in contrast, associate the ineffable with God on high. For theologians, talk of ineffability reflects the assumption that God is beyond human understanding. For hunters in Côte d’Ivoire, however—who also practice Islam—the spirits of dead hunters link them to God because, they say, the forest spirit, Manimory, descended from Abraham. Ineffability, in their case, reflects the sacred nature of local, practical pursuits like hunting as much as God’s transcendence.

Joseph Hellweg is Associate Professor of Religion at Florida State University. A cultural anthropologist by training, he has done over five years of field research in Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, and Mali. His first book, Hunting the Ethical State: The Benkadi Movement of Côte d’Ivoire, chronicled a security movement manned by West African hunters. He is now writing a second book about these hunters titled, Practical Religion: Hunting, Islam, and the Poetics of Action in the Songs of Dramane Coulibaly; it examines the praise-songs and epics that hunters sing. He has also written a book in French on anthropological research methods. More recently, he has been studying the African-invented N’ko alphabet in Guinea and Mali. His article on the literacy movement linked to this alphabet appeared in the collection, Living the City in Africa. He does his research in French and Malinké, which he speaks fluently.

Watch the video of Hellweg’s talk:

West African Dance Workshop

African Dance workshopWest African Dance Workshop with Diadié Bathily, Dancer, Caph Guéï, Drummer and introduction and interpretation by Joseph Hellweg

Friday, March 28, 12:15–1:45 p.m.

Studio 55 Theater, Harmon Fine Arts Center

The workshop will cover the study of West African dance and the accompanying music. Special emphasis will be placed on the dance, drumming, culture, language and arts of Ivory Coast, Guinea and Ivory Coast. It will consist of lecture and demonstration followed by active participation by students, primarily dancing and learning about the music. Students will build technique and develop an appreciation and understanding of the relevant resources available and how to research within them.

Diadié (pronounced Jah-Jay) Bathily has danced professionally for over 30 years on stages in Africa, Europe and North America. He is a world-renowned dancer, choreographer, instructor and costume designer. Bathily has conducted master classes and workshops throughout Europe and North America and has performed with or choreographed for such notable companies as the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble, the Katherine Dunham Centers for Arts & Humanities, Ecole de Danse et d’Echange Culturel with Ms. Marie Rose Guiraud, and Broadway Dance Center. He is the recipient of the N’gowa Prize for dance on the Ivory Coast and has performed at the United Nations, the Village of Arts and Humanities in Philadelphia and many festivals and events around the United States.

In 2003, he founded his own non-profit dance company, Afriky Lolo (Star of Africa) with troupes for adults, adolescents and children. They have performed and presented workshops all over the United States. Bathily was a guest choreographer and performer at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida and a visiting choreographer at Malcolm X College in Chicago. He also founded a satellite troupe of Afriky Lolo in Chicago.

See photos from the Dance Workshop

Watch a video of the dance workshop:

Religious Responses to Suffering: A Comparative Discussion

Tuesday, May 7, 7:00 p.m.,  Olin 101 








The Comparison Project 2012-2013 explored a range of religious explanations of and responses to suffering through a variety of public programing—everything from lectures on the Holocaust and the Lakota Ghost Dance, to community and Drake inter-faith dialogues, to creative non-fiction readings by Above + Beyond Cancer trekkers. Our culminating event invites three philosophers of religion, of varying methodological commitments and religious expertises, to reflect on these responses to suffering, drawing tentative comparative, explanatory, and evaluative conclusions about them.

Bradley Herling is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Marymount Manhattan College. He is the author of The German Gita: Hermeneutics and Discipline in the German Reception of Indian Thought, 1778-1831 (Routledge, 2006) and co-editor of Deliver Us From Evil (Continuum, 2009), an interdisciplinary collection of essays that examines the problem of evil and unwarranted suffering. Prof. Herling is currently working on a second edition of his textbook, A Beginner’s Guide to the Study of Religion, which will be published by Bloomsbury in 2014.

Read Bradley Herling’s Lecture

Jin Y. Park is Associate Professor of philosophy and religion at American University. Park is the author and editor of several books including Buddhism and Postmodernity: Zen, Huayan, and the Possibility of Buddhist Postmodern Ethics.

Read Jin Park’s Lecture

John J. Thatamanil is Associate Professor of Theology and World Religions at Union Theological Seminary. He is the author of The Immanent Divine: God, Creation and the Human Predicament (Fortress Press) and is currently working on a book, The Promise of Religious Diversity: Constructive Theology After Religion, that explores the meaning of the category “religion” for interreligious dialogue.

Listen to audio of the dialogue:

Innovative Jewish Responses to Holocaust

Thursday, April 4 at 7:00 p.m., Olin 101 

8 September 2011, CAHS Fellows stand for their informal portraits
Photo courtesy of the USHMM

Steven T. Katz is Director of the Elie Wiesel Center for Judaic Studies and Chair in Jewish and Holocaust Studies at Boston University. He has also taught at Dartmouth College, Cornell University, and at numerous other universities both in the US and abroad. In addition, Dr. Katz is presently the Chair of the Holocaust Commission of the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture and the Academic Advisor to the Academic Working Group of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.

Dr. Katz has published over 100 articles in scholarly journals in the fields of Judaica, Holocaust studies, philosophy of religion, and comparative mysticism, and has lectured all over the world. In 1999 he was awarded the University of Tübingen’s Lucas Prize for Holocaust studies. And his most recent book, Wrestling with God: Jewish Theological Responses During and After the Holocaust, was selected as the runner-up for the 2007 National Jewish Book Award. He is currently the editor of the journal, Modern Judaism.

Dr. Katz’s lecture will review and critique the main Jewish theological responses to the Holocaust and the “problem of evil.” It will include six responses that are, essentially, based on the adaptation and recycling of biblical explanations as to why the righteous suffer. After this opening analysis, he will turn to the five or six responses that present a novel “modern” accounting. This second group will include the views of Richard Rubenstein, Emil Fackenheim, Eliezer Berkovitz, Ignaz Maybaum, Emanuel Levinas, and Elie Wiesel.

Listen to Katz’s lecture:

Here is the section of Dr. Katz’s “Wrestling with God” upon which his lecture drew