Thursday, October 6, 2016

Thornbird


Photographed By Clara Vannucci

Several years ago, in Athens after islands hopping Greece,  I spotted an orthodox priest who so fascinated me I literally chased him down the road. After a lengthy inquisition, I learned that he was from Nigeria and had been a member of the clergy for over 20 years. I thought he looked magnificent. The contrast of the image I had in my head to what was reality, made him stand out.

I don't have a fixation for the ecclesiastics, but I sometimes fetishize things they wear. I love the sway of their vestments, and tend to enjoy when designers capture inspiration from their liturgical garments and place them on the runway. My obsession goes beyond the Abrahamic traditions, of course, as I equally prize beholding the outfits belonging to the High Priestesses, and the Buddhist monks in their saffron. I revel in things getting mixed and matched, too, like when the cleric wear cassock with traditional woven kente pattern. As long as there's an acknowledgement of where things come from, I'm good.

Guarding heritage by appreciating its source of origin. We should alter perceptions and borrow from each other's traditions if the intent is to subvert hatred while bearing in mind that subversion doesn't connote that one group or person gets called savage while another, salvation. 

I was in Ecuador through out their Semana Santa in 2008. During Easter I witnessed the procession of penitents, with the Messiah and the Nazarene Brotherhood at its center, walking through the streets. Yet, despite the glory and holiness of it all, all I kept thinking was, "You resemble Klan knights marching next to Jesus in that attire, and with cones on your head to boot." Alas, for my cultural references were warped, you see. What's more, I should stretch it since I'm on the subject and take the opportunity at hand to address das F├╝hrer directly as well; you know exactly where you stole that symbol and salutation from, amirite?

That said, in the past, I almost fell into temptation myself spending time in Venice in 2012. I stayed in a residence overlooking a monastery, and nearly every morning the Franciscan friars would hang their newly washed robes on clothes lines facing my balcony. As a result, I would have adventurous visitations of scaling our separating walls to snag one, just to inspect it further, feeling the fabric and perhaps even trying it on. Not to keep. Mama's got a moral compass y'all.

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