Madonna and Child of Soweto

This image has many resonances for me. I first saw it in 1973 or ’74, reproduced in a Christmas calendar prepared by my first employer,  Market Research Africa, who annually  produced impressive calendars based on South African art works.  For a long time, this image in particular, hhung on my living room wall. Years later, after the advent of democracy, I saw the original in the parish church of Regina Mundi, in Soweto.

Madonna and Child of Soweto: Laurence Scully

The obvious significance is as a reminder that Jesus and his family were not the white Caucasians they are usually represented as.

The greater significance is that this has hung throughout the turbulent years of the South African transition in  the parish church of Regina Mundi, Soweto -a  church which was frequently a focal point in the long struggle for justice. A large church, it often functioned as an informal substitute cathedral for Soweto.  (As it happens, “Regina” was one a fairly common “European” name given to African women; “mundi” sounds like it could easily be an African language surname.  It was often claimed that South African policemen,  unschooled in Latin or the ways of the Catholic church, would scratch their heads in frustration that they could not find this “Regina Mundi” woman who was said to cause so much trouble.)   And cause trouble she did.

I love to think of this painting, so vividly representing the reality of the Incarnation, sitting quietly in the church through those long years – while the real presence of the incarnated Christ, always with us, worked alongside the people of Soweto, supported by  the Catholic Church in South Africa, to end the injustice.

In just the same way, the incarnated Christ will surely work alongside us queer Christians, as we too fight injustice – this time perpetrated by the churches.

Also, I just like the image.

Read More:

Madonna and Child of Soweto

Church of Regina Mundi, Soweto

2 Responses to “Madonna and Child of Soweto”

  1. Jack McNulty Says:

    This was a perfect post for Christmas Eve. I need a reminder that too often I create the image of God with which I am comfortable. Who would have guessed that God would step into our world in the form of a child? This seems unacceptable in a culture which glorifies power and violence. To see the Madonna and child in the form of an African stops me in my tracks and causes me to reflect that God is always a surprise and won’t fit in the compartment I make to hold God.

    • Terence@queerchurch Says:

      I’m glad you liked it – and even more pleased that you have picked up on yet another aspect of this image that I had not: extending it to images of God in general, and not just the Son. Thanks.

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