In my office, these two pieces sit together–just as they are pictured here. The wood carving is of the Holy Family, carved by a Palestinian artisan in occupied territory. It was a gift from a colleague several years ago. The bracelet is made of beads from a colleague of my sister: a Ghanian bead artist, a woman who has resisted traditional gender roles in the glass bead tradition to become a master of her craft. If you look closely, you’ll notice the designs on each bead. Those intricate designs are not paint–they are glass. When I lived in Kenya, my sister was in the midst of research in Ghana. I visited her, met many of the folks she worked with, and received this beautiful gift from her talented colleague, which shows off some of her unique skill and technique.
I keep them together as a reminder–of the role that art plays in the pursuit of dignity, justice, hope, and beauty in this world. In a time of hashtag social justice, I believe that we must sculpt, write, sing, and in so many other ways, evoke images that point toward progress for all people, especially those who are disenfranchised. This essay has been an important influence on how I think about the connection between justice and aesthetics, and I refer to it often. It is in this spirit–as I watch the news during this Advent season–that I post this photo of other people’s art–Art that tells a story pointing toward hope, justice, equality, and solidarity.