Religious Pluralism: Using colour to Unite Community Members from Different Faiths
Less than 2 years back, Colour in Faith and Fatuma’s Voice started a much-needed conversation about radicalization, politics, and religion. This sparked a series of events which led to the transformation of communities through dialogue and joint action from groups that media almost always previously portrayed to be in conflict.
All this led our focus on houses of worship (e.g. churches, temples, mosques and synagogues) and colour all of them yellow. These physical structures hold communities together, and we felt that the colour would symbolize and speak to LOVE as the most important notion in any religion. Colouring the buildings would highlight the idea that there is more that unites than divides us as a people. Painting the buildings would represent a catalytic event that expresses the progress in community unity, belief in love and an expression of inclusivity as a result of the project.
What religious leaders are saying:
“For me, yellow is the color of the sun and the sun shines above everybody,” said Bishop Rose Mungafu. Her church in Mombasa recently partnered with the local Muslim community to paint the church yellow. “We painted together to show our people that we as leaders are together and so Muslims will know Christians are brothers,” Mungafu said. “Now everyone who passes by will know we are in peace.”
Celebrating Religious Pluralism:
Last week we revisited some of the houses of worship that we had previously painted in Mombasa. This follow up visit brought people of different faiths together as they celebrated religious pluralism. Kenya has in recent years been in the limelight of the global experience of a growing dominance of fundamentalist voices and acts of terror justified on religious grounds. This is particularly sad because Kenya has had a long established culture of religious acceptance, tolerance, accommodation and exchange.
These cultures are being undermined by an infusion of hardline interpretations of faith and the deepening of a global identity based on media stories about division, terrorist attacks and insecurity. The risk is a cultural confusion that would have agents of insecurity succeed in dividing these societies.
The idea is to focus on houses of worship (e.g. synagogues, churches, temples, and mosques) and colour the physical structures that hold these communities together yellow. The colour yellow would represent a physical manifestation of LOVE as the most important value in any religion. religion. The colouring of the buildings would highlight the idea that there is more that unites us than divides us as a people, African and otherwise.
Benefits of Public art to the Community:
It raises awareness of issues, and awakens a sense of possibility and of belonging. It reminds us of the potential of people coming together to do something unexpected that generates a conversation, bringing into that conversation people who have felt abandoned or even ostracised by more traditional frameworks. Essential to our ethos is the local nurturing of the entire project, from identifying an issue to ideating a concept to implementing it. The people impacted tend to be diverse and often under-served by other types of activism: public art tends to bring in people who often do not take part in other potentially unifying or cathartic social debates.
Colour in Faith is a project of inCOMMONS an organization focused on civic engagement and place-making with the mission of engendering tangible and personal responsibility for public spaces, culture & the environment. Colour in Faith is a form of citizen action that is aimed at challenging our feelings of helplessness in the face of a hijacking of faith for destruction. It is a form of inclusive action aimed at rekindling a sense of positive possibility and purpose-driven action. Our methodology combines community leadership building with public art such that communities develop tools to collectively analyze their public realm and community priorities, empathize with their fellow residents, and articulate common aspirations.
This initiative also comes from recognition of the role of pleasure in social change. Forced change only builds resistance. The arts and beauty have the potential to bring comfort, project an aspired way of life, express identity, offer a moment of reflection and elevate one, even momentarily, from a state of frustration and despondency.
Check out our film sharing the #ColourInFaith Launch at the Circle Art Agency last week in Nairobi! Featuring Yazmany Arboleda, Nabila Alibhai, Nik Jackson, Weke Zab, Rajay Shah, Ramadhan Obiero, Wanuri Kahiu, Yvonne Owour, and many others! Thank you Sadolin Paints EA Ltd, inCommons, Heinrich Boll Foundation, PAWA 254 and Fatuma’s Voice for your support!
CNN: WHY ARE KENYA’S MOSQUES & CHURCHES TURNING YELLOW?
THE GUARDIAN: MELLOW, YELLOW: KENYA’S MOSQUES AND CHURCHES PAINTED ‘IN THE NAME OF LOVE’
HOUSTON CHRONICLE: COLOUR IN FAITH PROJECT EXTOLS RELIGIOUS PLURALISM GLOBALLY
QUARTZ: AN ARTIST HAS PAINTED MOSQUES & CHURCHES YELLOW IN KENYA TO PROMOTE PEACE
HUFFINGTON POST: WHY KENYA’S HOUSES OF WORSHIP ARE GETTING A YELLOW MAKEOVER
SMITHSONIAN: THIS GROUP CELEBRATES KENYA’S RELIGIOUS DIVERSITY BY PAINTING RELIGIOUS CENTERS YELLOW