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VCUQatar Gallery Presents The Beaded Prayers Project

March 5, 2012
Sonya Clark Gallery Talk Anderson

Exhibition and Community Workshop open to the public.

The Gallery at Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar is pleased to present ‘The Beaded Prayers Project’. The opening reception for the exhibition will be held on Tuesday, 13 March, 2012, and is preceded by a lecture at 6:00 pm at the atrium at VCUQatar. A gallery workshop will be held on 12 March in conjunction with the exhibition. Both events are open to the public. The exhibition runs until 19 April, 2012.

‘The Beaded Prayers Project’ was launched in 1998 as an international, collaborative project to celebrate diversity and unity through a participatory art form. Since then, over 5000 people – ages six to 90, from 35 countries – have participated in the project by creating and contributing the beaded packets exhibited at VCUQatar. There are four parts to the project – a lecture, a workshop, a traveling exhibition, and a reflective publication. The exhibition at VCUQatar will represent the culmination of this project, concluding a tour that has taken it to over 25 venues. The Beaded Prayers Project is curated and directed by Sonya Clark, chair of Craft/Material Studies, VCU Richmond. Collaborator in this project is Sara Wilson McKay, Art Educator, VCU Richmond.

A Community Workshop will be held on Monday, 12 March from 12:15 to 2:15 pm at the Gallery at VCUQatar. This workshop will provide an opportunity for participants to contribute to the project by making beaded amulets or “beaded prayers” containing their own individual written hopes and aspirations. Clark and McKay will be in Doha to conduct the workshop and present the project. Spaces for the workshop are strictly limited and need to be reserved. Please contact VCUQatar Exhibition and Speaker Curator, Caitlin Doherty, at [email protected] to reserve a place.

The name of the Project comes from the shared etymology of the words “bead” and “prayer.” In Old English, biddan, from which “bead” is derived, means “to ask” or “to pray.” The concept for creating packets with potent contents was inspired by traditions among different peoples from Africa and the African Diaspora. The packets of the Akan in Ghana are called ensuman. The Hausa and Yoruba of Nigeria make tira. Afro Brazilians make patua. The Bakongo in the Congo make minkisi. In the United States, some African Americans refer to them as mojo. Powerful prayer packets are found in other traditions as well. They are known as doaa nameh in Iran, scapulars among Catholics, dhuwas in Sri Lanka, and mezuzahs and tefillin in the Jewish tradition. Even the Romans and Greeks had a practice of using lamellae and phylacteries.

“Each packet contains the wish, hope, dream, blessing, or prayer of an individual participant, written on a piece of paper and encased with a covering that includes at least one bead on the surface,” said Clark. “Most participants made two packets: one to keep and the other for this installation, which celebrates the role of the individual and the importance of that person’s place in the community. From the exquisitely crafted to the crudely stitched, each beaded packet is the unique expression of an individual aspiration. Even those pieces that resemble one another on the outside no doubt have different messages sealed inside.”

The exhibition is scheduled from 13 March to 19 April, 2012 at The Gallery at VCUQatar and is open Sundays to Thursdays, from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, or by prior appointment. The lecture on ‘The Beaded Prayers Project’ will be held on 13 March at 6:00 pm at the atrium at VCUQatar and will be followed by the opening reception for the exhibition. A community workshop will be held on 12 March from12:15 to 2:15 pm at the Gallery at VCUQatar. Both events are open to the public with prior reservations required for the workshop. For more information, please contact VCUQatar Exhibition and Speaker Curator, Caitlin Doherty, at [email protected] or call +974 44020555.

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