James Samikwa – God Our Mother


Malawi - Dedza Diocese - Mua Parish - Parish Church


High over the nave of the church hangs James Samikwa's depiction of God Our Mother. God - Chauta (one of several Chewa names for God) is depicted, as often in Kungoni art, concealed behind a mask, which suggests here a smiling mother who extends Her welcoming hands toward Her children, the congregation. With Her are Maliya / Mary and Yosefe / Joseph but also three figures inspired by Gule Wamkulu (but not Gule Wamkulu), who may be understood as ancestral spirits mediating between ourselves and God - Chauta. The figure to the left suggests the moral deformity that s/he had incurred in life before being saved by God - Chauta; for it was such as these that God the Son had come to Earth to save. From God - Chauta emanates Her essence: i.e. presence and power, represented by ripples of grass bundles behind the carving and on the ceiling, and by waves painted on the walls, which extend to reach every niche of Creation. God - Chauta is not a deus otiosus but rather an outgoing God of communion.


This arresting image attempts inculturation of a higher order than that reflected in the Africanisation of images of the Gospel more familiar in European dress, of the sort that we have begun to see. In due course we will compare more of such work and attempt to give verbal expression to what Dr. Martin Ott called Kungoni's 'theology in images': Ott, M. (2000). African Theology in Images. Blantyre: CLAIM.



Artist: James Samikwa

Title: God - Chauta Our Mother

Date: 1989

Themes: ATR, Chewa, Church Decoration, God - Chauta, Gule Wamkulu

Source: Kungoni Archive, Vidi