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Shrines for Our Times: The Sacred Gaze & Unmanageable Woes

Date & time
Monday, March 4, 2024 –
Saturday, August 31, 2024 (all day)

This event is free




Aeron MacHattie



Collage of screenshots from the exhibition Inside the shrine

While the term “shrine” indicates something enshrined and therefore, closed, religious shrines are sites for hope, community, and ongoing practices. Providing spiritual support and acknowledging the traditions of old, yet grounded in the realities of our daily lives, shrines remain important to worshippers everywhere, while also being locally contextualized.

As we traverse uncertain waters in the contemporary world, facing gargantuan issues such as climate change, inequality and poverty, disease and ill-health among others, it is understandable to feel overwhelmed and stuck. These problems are societal and structural, and cannot be resolved by individuals; they also need concrete, concerted and long-term investments to be resolved, if that is even possible. What is it that shrines can do in the face of such unmanageable woes?

While religious and artistic traditions might not provide the structural solutions to the problems of today, they offer people with the opportunity to reach towards something greater than what an individual is capable of. This could be the safety and hope bestowed by a higher entity, or even just the power of community. Shrines, as religious and artistic places, address problems that are unmanageable for individuals and propose communal ways of engaging, negotiating, conversing, and organizing that index the possibility of futures.

In this course on Religion and the Arts in South and Southeast Asia (RELI 347), we emphasize the visualizations and practices of aesthetic traditions in this region over time and space, and center frameworks that are underrepresented in Western institutions. Our point with this exhibit is to address issues of global concern, but with a localized significance.

The subjects focused on are mental health struggles in South Asia, the effects of climate change in Karachi in Pakistan, the sexism indoctrinated in Indian culture, physical and mental health issues in Vietnamese society, and poverty in Cambodia.

Each shrine represents a different struggle but the exhibit as a whole showcases the intersectionality between these issues and the communities affected by them. Through the visualization of a shrine, we are presenting a chosen problem with a specific socio-economic context, and how the physical manifestation of a religious monument creates a space where art, religion, and community organize around it.

Check out the online virtual exhibition: Shrines for Our Times: The Sacred Gaze & Unmanageable Woes



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