This Lenten season, an exhibit titled “The Passion and Glory” showcases Angelo da Fonseca’s art at the Xavier Centre of Historical Research. It ensues from “The Christmas Story” exhibition of the Goan artist’s work, which I had the pleasure of viewing at the same venue a few months prior. Apart from da Fonseca’s unique South Asian styling of Christian themes, what struck me is the centrality of the Madonna in much of his work.
|The Pietà at St. Peter's Basilica|
|Angelo da Fonseca (1902-1967)|
In noting the racialized caste-bias of the Goan artist’s audience, Viegas reveals the subversive element in da Fonseca’s work. In a similar vein, theologian Felix Wilfred indentifies how “the dalits’ encounter with manifold social oppression led to a re-reading of the gospel,” causing the development of South Asian liberation theology – “an analysis of society [that takes] into account the caste structure, directing its critique against Brahminical hegemony.”
So also, the brown Madonna offers a potential counterpoint to patriarchy in general. For example, when da Fonseca depicts Mary’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth, no visible male figures frame their contact. Here, being a woman is not equated with motherhood. The Madonna, then, is posited in da Fonseca’s oeuvre as a woman whose gender and race brings awareness to marginality. Her humanity is in being the revolutionary other.
A version of this piece appears in print and can be found online.