What Terrorism Taught An Artist

Posted by Craig Borlase on 16 September 2015

Makoto Fujimura’s art breaks boundaries and fuses styles. “I was born in the US,” he says, “but grew up bi-culturally between Japan and the US. My art, too, is borderless, navigating between east and west, abstraction and representation, tradition and contemporary. Since I was trained as a national scholar for six and a half years in the lineage program of Nihonga, which is traditional Japanese style painting, I use these ancient materials and methods to create contemporary art.

It’s not just his artistic styles that are diverse. “As an artist of faith, I found myself navigating the gap between the church and the world,” says Make, who lives in New York. “My artist friends could not share in my newly found excitement about Christ and my church friends could not understand art. I was doubly exiled.”

That sense of exile - of being a stranger in a strange land - was even more tangible in the days after the 9/11 attacks. New York city was bleeding, and Makoto and his family wondered whether they would want to stay. Yet God had other plans, and Makoto found himself thinking about the idea of shalom - the Hebrew term for peace, completion, harmony and more.

In an email to his friends he explained further:

"Create we must, and respond to this dark hour. The world needs artists who dedicate themselves to communicate the images of Shalom. Jesus is the Shalom. Shalom is not just the absence of war, but wholeness, healing and joy of fullness of Humanity. We need to collaborate within our communities, to respond individually to give to the world our Shalom vision."

Years later Makoto’s is even clearer on the role that creativity can play in the midst of suffering. “In times of fear or while being traumatized, one of the greatest challenges is to operate not strictly out of fear, but out of love. Art and creativity operate in the spheres of love...The key to communicating our core message of generative work is to operate out of sheer love for people, and not to unnecessarily increase their fear for the future... To have hope is no longer an optimist's escapism - it is the only path to the future.”

Sung worship is a creative act. Whether the songs are spontaneous or centuries old, when we join in the choir of misfits and start to sing we step away from our individualism and allow ourselves to become a part of the body of Christ. We create sound that may or may not be sweet, but more importantly we create a space where others can belong, a space in which people can meet God.

To some who are broken and fearful, hurt and exiled, there’s no art quite as compelling as that.

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