A Happy Christmas Everyone and a Peaceful New Year

Black Christ Mural
Naiserelagi, about 45 km east of Rakiraki, is the home of the church with a mural of the Black Christ by French artist Jean Charlot. This is an exquisite work, blending Fijian motifs with the teachings of Christ. Charlot painted the mural in 1962 at the invitation of Monsignor Franz Wasner, the then-caretaker of the mission. (Prior to coming to Fiji Monsignor Wasner was at one time the singing teacher of the Von Trapp family of Sound of Music fame.) The mural was painstakingly completed by the dim lamplight of the church – apparently Charlot had a great deal of trouble applying the fresh mortar to the wall.

The central image of the mural is the figure of a black Christ on the cross, wearing masi (tapa) cloth around his waist. He is being paid homage to by a number of Fijian figures. In the immediate background are breadfruit leaves and fruit which express his close relationship with nature and, according to Charlot’s wife, are a vital symbol in the fresco. The Fijian word for breadfruit, uto, is also used for ‘heart’. At Christ’s feet is a tanoa (yaqona bowl), symbolising the Eucharist. To his right are a child in a mission school uniform, St Peter Chanel (a martyred Saint in the Pacific), Father Mataca (the first Fijian Catholic priest), a Fijian woman bringing Christ an offering of woven mats, and a Fijian man offering Christ a tabua (whale’s tooth) – the highest form of respect a Fijian can confer. To Christ’s left an Indian woman is portrayed offering a garland of flowers and an Indian farmer is pictured with a pair of oxen. Also shown are St Francis Xavier (whom the church is named after) and an acolyte. (Photo courtesy of Steve Leavitt, Union College).

According to accounts, when the mural was complete the entire parish of Naiserelagi held a feast in Charlot’s honor. Cows were slaughtered and the traditional yaqona ceremony was observed. As in the mural, women presented the artist with mats. After visiting what has to be the finest non-Fijian work of art in Fiji, you should not forget to drop some money into the donation box at the door. Proceeds are used to maintain the church.

Painting by Jean Charlot; Photo by Philip Game.  Text from Fiji Guide.

Comments

Mohinish said…
The coming new year will be critical for our beloved country. It will be a major challenge to prevent old politicians to come back in an election because this will destroy Fiji. We have to come out in strong numbers and vote for our AG our PM and the military officers who have sacrificed so much to keep Fiji stable and safe. Lets all support our magnificent leaders and their revolutionary ideas of a race free and corruption free Fiji.
Anare said…
Rest assured Mohinish, it will not matter if we come out and how we vote in the election. Our leaders have put so many controls and stops in place that they will win elections no matter how stupid the electorate votes.

Have a nice Christmas
Anonymous said…
Croz, you're back! Merry Christmas! I hoped that you wouldn't be able to stay away for long. We need you. Please start writing again!
Crosbie Walsh said…
I may publish occasional piece but I won't be publishing regularly until late Jan-early Feb. I'm enjoying the break. Have painted the house, the vege garden looks promising, and I've been able to spend more family time.
Anonymous said…
Take a well deserved break Croz, and if possible, keep publishing every now and then. You are carrying out a great service and you seem to have a built a dedicated following. There are too few blogs on Fiji that are intelligent. And of course do not forget Alan Lockington's column.
Anonymous said…
Welcome back Croz.

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