RELIGIONS OF ECSTASY
could instill in those for whom they were made.
This is why the exhibition includes around
200 photographs, including ones taken in situ
by MEG photographer Johnathan Watts, by
myself, and by artists like Santu Mofokeng,
Mohau Modisakeng, and Fabrice Monteiro.
The latter went to Senegal to follow the devotees
of the teachings of Ibrahima Fall. There is
also Christian Lutz, the Geneva photographer
who we commissioned to document several
African religious communities—Orthodox,
Kimbanguist, and Mouride—in Switzerland. This
presentation is complemented by the interviews
we have conducted with individuals about their
connections with religion, and five installations
by Theo Eshetu, two of which—Zar Possession
and The Phi Phenomenon—were created
especially for this exhibition while the artist was
in residence at the MEG.
T.A.M.: In the twenty-first century in which we
live, religion is a sensitive subject, to say the least.
How do you feel your exhibition will be received?
B.W.: Obviously I’m expecting people to talk
about the show, both because the subject is
certainly not neutral and because I haven’t
taken an encyclopedic approach to it. There
are so many African religions that it would be
impossible to include them all.
I also think that our presentation draws
hitherto undescribed parallels between different
faiths, and that may arouse some strong
reactions by visitors. Take the possible case of a
visitor to our exhibition from the five Orthodox/
Eritrean churches here in Geneva. He will
likely appreciate seeing himself reflected in the
photographs by Christian Lutz, and then be
equally horrified when, a few meters further
into the installation, he finds himself surrounded
by realities that his religion would identify as
demonic. This speaks to the powerful experience
that this show will provide. The show also
demonstrates the degree to which the ecstatic
experience can be an effective path to knowledge.
We certainly hope and expect that visitors to our
exhibition will leave enriched by it.
Afrique. Les religions de l’extase
May 18, 2018–January 6, 2019
Musée d’ethnographie de Genève
FIG. 11 (left): Talismanic
manuscript in the form of a
star, composed of Koranic
formulae. West Africa.
19th–early 20th century.
Paper, ink. 21 x 16.7 cm.
MEG, inv. ETHAF 042950.
Donated by the painter and collector
Émile Chambon in 1981.
© MEG, J. Watts.
FIG. 12 (below): Mask. Guro
or Baule, Côte d’Ivoire.
Wood. H: 50.5 cm.
MEG, inv. ETHAF 033697.
Acquired in 1967 from
anthropologist Hans Himmelheber;
collected by him in 1963.
© MEG, J. Watts