Prayer – a human function

 

Prayers and Arts

Yesterday I have been assisting a catholic community-service in Brasíla - very different from what one with a protestant education is used to. But actually I have been participating in religious services around the world, although I am not really religious myself: from the Blue Mosque in Istanbul to the Islamic Mindanao Island in the Philippines, from the night-long trance-dances of Dervishes in Pakistan, to Hindu-Celebrations in Varanasi, from the warm and golden and inviting Buddhist temples in Thailand and the monasteries up in the Himalaya-mountains of Nepal to Zen-meditations and dusting Chinese temples to the Candombles in Brazil, from the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem to the Friday-prayers in the streets of Abidjan from the aborigine celebrations of the Ifugao-people and the ever singing catholic church-services on the Philippines, from the great service in the Cathedral of Santiago de Campostela and the the end of the St. Jacobs pilgrimage or Orthodox Easter-Celebrations on Crete to the protestant Kinder-Gottesdienst of my childhood. Even not believing in anything one can get easily seduced by the beauty and the seriousness of all these dialogues with a believed superior power and sense. There is actually little in the world, which can be as beautiful as listening and observing from a rooftop in Stonetown/Zanzibar to the Muezzims singing the evening prayers in the sunset-hour all over the city.

Prayer is in the center of all religious services. Prayers are part of cultural heritage, of cultural formation, of understandings and concepts of the world, of human beings, of life and death. Prayers mark the most important event in life, the most beautiful and touching ones as much as all states of desperation, disaster and fear.

Even most atheists use to teach their children how to pray.

And prayers have developed most artistic forms and contexts, have inspired arts throughout the history and the present, have ritualized human gatherings and social celbrations.

Planning a huge project about culture and religions, what could be more challenging and welcome at the same time, than a project about prayers. So, when Heike Schmidt came up with this idea, it was not even necessary to convince me to be part of it and have the European Center for the Arts Hellerau to co-produce it.

I am very curious to see this project being realized and developed, although I do not believe that it is possible, and maybe even not legitimate to separate the movements from the words, the rituals from the contents in prayers. I am sure the project will be one important artistic step in the reflection about prayers.


Dieter Jaenicke
Artistic Director
HELLERAU – European Center for the Arts Dresden