Consciously, I don’t recollect the moment when I said to myself, “I have to write about him.” Instead, it was kind of churning in the background. It was more a synthesis of concepts and ideas that had been percolating in my mind for years.
One of those ideas had to do with the idea of ancient Christianity in Ethiopia (Africa) and the images of the Black Madonna and child (Mary and Jesus) painted on the church walls there.
When I was a freshman, during the one quarter I attended Western Illinois University, I took South African Literature and African American Studies. My professor’s name was Dr. Evie Adams Welch. Her classes was spellbinding, at least for me.
(It might not have been the same for everyone. I remember one other student nodding and falling out of her chair asleep. She still didn’t wake up after she hit the floor.)
In any case, I was enthralled. B.D.W (Before Dr. Welch), all I had heard was that there was no Christianity in Africa, except for what was taught by white missionaries.
But Dr. Welch taught us about beautiful cathedrals carved from stone. She said there were images of a brown-faced Christ painted on the walls, and images of a Black Mary, or a Black Madonna.
I have a very visual memory. Dr. Welch’s words painted pictures in my mind that have remained to this day.
In 2007, I wrote a series of articles for Romantic Times Magazine on multicultural writing. I interviewed several writers like, Eric Jerome Dickey, Neta Jackson, Athol and Beverly Jenkins.
One of the writers I attempted to interview was Sue Monk Kidd, a fellow Daily Guideposts contributor famous for her novel, The Secret Life of Bees. Kidd was in the midst of writing, so she was unavailable, but I found a lecture online that she’d given at The Washington National Cathedral in 2005: The Illuminating Black Madonna. http://www.nationalcathedral.org/events/smk050413.shtml
Her talk was intriguing (particularly because I was wearing a red head wrap at the time—you won’t understand unless you watch the lecture) and triggered my memory of Dr. Welch and the Ethiopian Black Madonna.
Kidd talks about the mystery of the Black Madonna during the 11th and 12th centuries in Europe, and muses about the Black Madonna’s roots. The Black Madonna of Ethiopia, and of The Resurrection of Nat Turner, has ancient Ethiopian Christian roots.
I’ll talk more next time about the Nat Turner, the lore surrounding his Ethiopian mother, and the Ethiopian Black Madonna connection.Gary Vikan - Interview
Until then, let the truth rise!
Photo credit: Gary Vikan of The Walters Museum. Used with permission. All rights reserved.