Letter of Appreciation on the Exhibition in Fu Jen Catholic University, China
Over the last few days, since your dolls visited Fu Jen Catholic University, they –and you through them- have had a lot to say to us, both students and teachers alike. Although we had only four days to display them, it was worth all the effort spent. No one, who took the time to really look and listen went away unmoved. Although your dolls don’t speak Chinese, they got their message across, not withstanding barriers of language and culture, touching the hearts of young and old, students and teachers, women and men, well-to-do and those less fortunate.
I would like to thank you especially for the time you gave to my class of graduate students the first afternoon after they had seen the display. Their questions, and even their tears, told me how powerful the language of your dolls is, raising deep questions ranging from the lot of the poor, as you know them, to globalization, form consumerism to social responsibility, from power politics to ecological concerns, from movements and solidarity in the spirit of hope, believing that a better world is possible. You can be sure your dolls will continue to speak to them and myself in my ‘Design and Culture’ class, in my ‘Globalization and Development’ seminar, and in my ‘Contemporary Issues’ class. The same I think is true of a number of other teachers, who brought their students to see the display and to ask you questions on the spot. Your dolls are excellent question-raisers; their soft, gentle approach is very appropriate, inviting, indeed attractive way of reaching the young generation of today, who are little inclined to listen to indoctrination.
Dear Francoise, may be what I want to say is, that I wish you would have more chances to enter the universities and colleges, where teachers can bring their students. Such exposures move their hearts, and once their hearts are moved and open, it is rather easy for us teachers to deepen the message, that you (and we as well) hope to get across to them, independent of the subject we teach. Therefore I also wish to thank you for allowing us to take some photos and even a video. Through them, your book and poems, the dolls will continue to be excellent ‘teaching assistants’ to me and others.
Considering the experience of the exhibition, I believe your personal presence makes difference, because after having encountered the dolls, people want to know who breathed the soul into these creatures, whose life are they breathing and sharing? We can do some translation but we cannot really substitute you. Your living witness tells it all, and people come to realize what a difference one single person can make, and what a difference we can make together, if we join hands in solidarity to make this world a better place to live in. Don’t you think that is the ‘good news’ of hope most needed in our world today? That is also why in our Department I have created the slogan: ‘Together we can make it!’
In my community we discuss a lot of so-called ‘new ministries’, finding ways and means to be more effective in our missionary involvements in a rapidly changing world. Led by Providence, you have found a very creative, unique, personally engaging, and very powerful ‘new ministry’. May God give you more and more opportunities to speak His and your message through the life of the poor, neglected and abused through the down-to reality expressions of your dolls, appealing to the conscience of modern humanity.
Finally, I wish to thank you for spending time with Yuma last night. Of all those who came, I wanted her (more than anyone else) to see the dolls. After she looked at them for one and a half hours all alone last night, she talked to me about her impression. She said that she just returned from a National Conference entitled: ‘Museum Development and Taiwan Aborigines’. As the Conference proceeded, the Aborigines participants felt increasingly uncomfortable, because they experienced themselves being treated as ‘research objects’ by scholars of anthropology, and as mere means by which to improve local museums, rather than as having a dignity of their own, a right to their own ideas, lifestyle and plans for development. While talking and listening to your dolls, Yuma felt keenly that here was someone at work, who respected the life of those represented by them, gave them a voice of their own, allowed the poor, the neglected and maltreated to teach powerful lessons of reflection to the learned of the 21st century. Therefore, I was so glad when you took time late last night, though your were very tired, to allow her to share with you feelings and frustration in her own work as an Aborigines among her own tribal people, and you shared yours with her. She appeared so much brighter and lighter, when she left late at night than when she arrived.
Dear Francoise, I did not want to write so much in the guestbook at the exhibition desk. Yet, as a sign of gratitude and appreciation, please accept these lines for your encouragement and comfort in all your labour of love fidelity to the mission entrusted to you. I shall remember you with joy and thanksgiving in my prayers.
Sr Maryta Laumann SSpS Fujen Catholic University,
Textile and clothing department; Nov 2003
Indian Theological Association, Bangalore, India
Thank you for accepting our invitation to exhibit your gospel dolls/images at our Indian Theological Association meeting and seminar.
This is a word of appreciation of your presence and contribution to our reflections about church in India and her mission through the powerful words and messages of the GOSPEL IMAGES.
In fact the dolls did speak very powerfully to whoever visited the hall and saw the exhibition. Many felt that every image did embody a major concern of the gospel. Every doll/image does challenge and inspire the conscience of the viewer. It is a very powerful proclamation of the gospel. It is a new way of proclaiming the gospel since every image embodies a human concern which is also God’s concern as we see from the synoptic gospels.
We wish that you will take this images to as many groups as possible so that God will speak to more and more people through this well shaped tiny figures. We members of the executive of Indian Theological Association wish you well. Do continue in this way to invite all members of the human family, irrespective of religion, race, language or culture to work for a better human society.
With warm regards
~ Jacob Parappally MSFS
Vidyajyoti College of Theology, Delhi, India
I was glad to meet you in Bombay during the World Social Forum. I am equally glad that you brought your book The Dolls Speak to the venue of the Forum. I have been closely monitoring the journey of the book ever since the making of the dolls and their exhibition. I think I should place these my observations before you.
The church’s mode of serving the world is growing, changing according to the new consciousness that is growing in the church, and especially in the wide civil society at large.
Understanding of evangelization is growing and changing rapidly. New forms of communicating the truth of the Gospel is surfacing and is being pursued quite successfully. This is the need of the hour.
Gospels’ eyes are now sharply being focused on the deprived, the discriminated and marginalized sections of God’s people. This is the initiative of God who wants to restore the distorted in His creation. We have to obey and follow, and slowly move away from methods that are unsuited to our times and create new and relevant methods.
You have beautifully given expression to this ‘eye and heart of the bible’ so to speak through the dolls. DOLLS ARE SPEAKING is the title, and people are saying that through these GOD IS SPEAKING, GOD IS CHALLENGING, TRUTH IS SPEAKING. Onlookers are listening to God. Dolls here are prophets that speak sharply to the people of our times.
The fact that, whoever has viewed them, has pondered deeply over each doll indicates that hearts are affected, perceptions and social values and practices are being challenged in a novel way, This you should notice and register.
What is important is that all believers and even non-believers, irrespective of their being a Hindu or Christian or Buddhist or Sikh or atheist, respond to this novel way of highlighting sin in the world. It is at the human level that the impact is uniform. There is no sectarian thinking here. It is the universal values of the gospel that are being thus demonstrated. It is good that people’s conscience is thus invaded by the power of the truth that is embodied in and through the DOLLS.
It is my suggestion that this novel form of communicating universal truths and values, Gospel values, should be given priority over other kinds of ministries that are traditional.
You may notice that quite a number of those who study and appreciate the DOLLS SPEAK come from the middle class, or even upper class. It is this sector that needs to be challenged. Ordinary means of challenging them are of not much effect. Here you have at your hand a most powerful and effective means. It is truth speaking and challenging through the art that is taking place. In other words, here God has given you a very novel and effective means for transcultural and even inter-religious or across religion communication possibility. I am confident that you will avail yourselves of this opportunity God has opened up before you.
A last observation: you being not born in this land and culture is another issue. It is an advantage. I grant that fundamentalist may brand your work as ‘Christianizing’. But that dung is flung at all ‘artists and writers’, including Amarya Sen. But for normal Indians it is an advantage for you.
Should you not take this work as a priority? Should you not unhesitatingly carry forward this new form of ministry? I think you should discuss this with your superiors, some knowledgeable theologians, especially those deeply in the world of Social Communications and the Media. Kindly let me know your response to this letter of mine. I conclude.
~ Fr. T.K.John SJ