Early Years — Mauritius and journey to Africa

I am French – born on the Island of Mauritius to Loïs and Laurence, descended from French ancestors who emigrated from Anjou/Nantes, France, in the mid-18th century. We arrived in South Africa just before my teens. I married Sharon, a South African Fine Arts graduate, in 1978, and graduated with a finance degree in 1986 at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. During the ’70s and ’80s, I sought to come to grips with a nation embroiled by racial schisms, political violence, justifications of domination at the cost of human dignity and spinning headlong into a worsening socio-political situation as it entered the 80′s as a pariah of the world. My earliest recollection of anger against the South African Apartheid system was the day I first saw the pictures of children and women massacred by the South African police during the 1976 Soweto student riots. The South African government’s human rights violations and the human capacity for abuse deeply affected me and contributed to some extent to the course of my life. The call to justice seemed to awaken me from a long darkness of youthful boredom and bouts of depression.

Political challenges

Though a Christian for most of my life, in my mid-twenties (1977) I met God in a personal way in the midst of difficult personal circumstances where God’s voice became real to me through several encounters. It grew faith in an intimate relationship with God. Two years later, in 1979, we co-founded a multicultural church of all races living together in community, which was considered in our context as an act of defiance against Apartheid policies. The opposition we received during those years tested our faith. The idea of the community thus grew for us as not less than both a theological and political response to context. Our circumstance made our theology a political theology which gave our faith a political edge. We said “no” to racism, “no” to segregation, and “no” even to the many excuses we had told ourselves, or that “it was all right” to turn a blind eye to the victims of our society and its perpetrators.

Journey to Canada

In 1997, in a season of new departures for us, I heard the words “Go, and I will be your eyes for you, take hold of me, and I will take care of everything.” Submitted to the advice also of our friends and leaders in the community, we, with our three young children, responded to the call to go to Canada sight-unseen, and to trust God in that adventure. We began a season of apostolic work in Canada and various other nations as part of an international apostolic team. We also established a Christian community in the Greater Toronto Area, which we handed over to next-generational leaders in 2010.  Now, in the most recent season of our journey, I am in the process of completing several courses of studies at the University of Toronto. At the same time together with Sharon, my wife, friend, and partner of 40 years, we are building a business that involves our combined skills of fostering creativity through the arts, decor, interior design, painting, photography, and in the printmaking field.

Artistic Journey

My father was a musician and caricaturist whose last words written in French were, “We always discover too late the marvel in each moment.” These words have become an inspiration in my life. I took up photography in 2006 to capture landscapes for Sharon’s large oil paintings, and so fell in love with the way light falls on objects. My journey in photography has also grown into a passion for the monochrome frame and continues to draw me to explore light at play. Whether I work in color, or in the simplicity of black and white tones, I intend the canvas or frame to show emphases in contrasts through the nuances in the tensions between light and shadows at work in a scene.

The Pursuing the Light project, which exhibited at the Arta Gallery at the Toronto Distillery District in December 2007, and again at the Contact Photography Festival in May 2008, examines this relationship between light and shadows, and in some way reflects a creative philosophy. I take a metaphysical view of the presence of shadows within a scene – as a reflection of the surplus of light in the symbiotic tensioned relationship between light and shadows. Without light there would be no shadows; without shadows, light’s relationship with its ‘canvas’ is not easy to appreciate. Shadows define for us the shapes, contours, and horizons of our photographic contexts. In a philosophical sense, they prevent the negation of ‘otherness’. I thus oppose the idea here that art and meaning are sustainable outside a tensioned relation of hope-in-surplus between correspondence and contradiction in known and unknown, in self and other. I take a tensioned view of the relation between light and shadows. A ‘no fear’ approach to art or philosophy seek the boundaries of contrast or ‘tensioned exuberant abundance’ in every creative expression through both possibilities and limits. As light brings insight into an image, shadows increase the intrigue, and both interplay to deepen the message. Therefore, the tensional themes that shape my conception of logic and theology in the public space also give shape to a metaphorical representation of my photographic scenes. Again, philosophically speaking, I take up the notion of ‘tension’ 1/ through a creative or imaginative respect of limits (or of the ‘other/s’); 2/ in an exploration of active tensional relations; 3/ in recovery from within marginal spaces, and 4/ in an uncompletable quest that joins present praxis to horizonal encounters between knowns and unknowns. I hope to continue to search for an artistic-prophetic vision of the past (remembrance) and of the future (expectation) that comes together in present creative-imaginative experience.

video of the ARTA exhibition: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XfybYEM4Fk4

Later Years Direction

My earlier years in South Africa as Francophone-Mauritian outsider both in culture and faith, grew the hunger to understand the breadth of the cross-resurrection as a ‘single event of double dimension’ (to use Jürgen Moltmann’s terms). The Christ-event speaks of Christ’s ‘exuberant-abundant-non-rejective’ embrace in the agony of love and what that means to a broken, divided world; to divided neighbors, and the often murderous mistrust and fear of the ‘other’ in an increasingly globalized 21st Century in transition. The work of Christ’s love on the cross for our globalized contemporary context makes room for the willingness to find the ‘other/s’ through a unity-across-diversity and the suspension of the dichotomy between human and divine, and self and other. God, close and dissimilar, provides a space of grace for humanity much more significant than any particular doctrinal or ecclesiological province. I see in this sense that God can be invoked but not defined or confined to human construction. Put differently, the work of the exuberant-abundant love in the cross-resurrection event informs my faith that the unknown must come near for the known to be extended and to flourish. This love points to the growing of the tensioned hope of exuberant abundance for all and in all according to 1 Corinthians 15:28.

Mark 10 was spoken over us many times over the years (“no one who has left…”). However, the years have invariably revealed through our faith-struggles, the extent, and ease with which identity can become tied to what we do at the cost of remaining open to the prophetic voice/s of the ‘other/s’. I thus seek ‘new seeing eyes’ and ‘new hearkening ears’ to understand the work of the cross-resurrection of Christ in our ‘todays’. Surrender (as in 2 Corinthians 4:18) is most often tied closely to the turn of ‘seeing and hearing’ in another ‘not yet’ direction without losing the connection of ‘already’ identity. It also fosters an attitude of not limiting contentment to our past achievements or to the direction we are presently on. It searches for peace that comes with the faith to act in ways that may need to challenge our status quos. The act of Christ in the cross-resurrection was in this sense an act ‘outside’ of a particular conception of ‘already’ reality. Christ came as prophetic ‘Other’. God’s surrender to our space entailed abyssal suffering. However, in this act of unfathomable love, humanity, none excepted, can find the quintessential invite to a relationship with the Spirit of Christ who belongs exclusively to no one, but is here, present, for all; to bless; to redeem; to protect; to transform; to liberate. Also, in God’s grace, God is here to enjoy and enter into relation with the human, God’s Beloved counterpart, and to liberate the whole creation. God’s blessing waits thus also on our response of love and affection. God’s kenosis (self-emptying) occasions the poiesis (creative-imaginative response of doing in the Spirit) of both finding God’s joy and giving God joy in our love of neighbor; friend, and enemy.

σωζεσθε

Loys