Art exhibits honor Mennonite women from Russia; explore everyday life in modern Congo

By wayne.steffen on March 6, 2017 @ 9:07am

One upcoming art exhibit honors women who led their families from suffering in Russia to peace in North America, while a second one looks at life in contemporary Congo.

“Along the Road to Freedom: Mennonite Women of Courage & Faith,” takes place March 14 through-May 6, 2017, in the Seminary Chapel, North Hall 123, on the main Fresno Pacific University campus, 1717 S. Chestnut Ave., Fresno. Admission is free.

The Ray Dirks Congo photography exhibit will be on display starting Sunday, March 12, 2017, at College Community Church Mennonite Brethren (CCMB), 2529 Willow Ave., Clovis. Admission is free.

The artist behind both exhibits is Ray Dirks, who has worked as an artist and curator in 30 countries, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe and South Africa and hosted solo exhibits in Canada, the U.S., Cuba, Ethiopia, India and Trinidad and Tobago. He founded the Mennonite Heritage Centre Gallery in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, becoming its first curator/director in 1998 after working for more than a decade as a freelance artist and curator.

In more than 20 paintings, “Along the Road to Freedom” tells the stories of mothers, daughters, grandmothers and sisters who led their families out of persecution in Russia to lives of freedom in North America. Viewers are asked to remember and honor these women—whether strong or frail, certain or unsure—who struggled to survive and provide for their families.

The photography exhibit focuses on the everyday life of the Congolese people today. Dirks took the photos around the time of the 2006 presidential election there and during a 2005 trip with Pakisa Tshimika and Dalton Reimer, Ph.D., an FPU emeritus professor. Tshimika and Reimer represented the Fresno nonprofit Mama Makeka House of Hope, which Tshimika, an FPU graduate, founded.

In 2008 Dirks received the Above and Beyond for the Arts award from the Manitoba Foundation for the Arts. In 2011 he received Canadian Mennonite University’s Blazer Distinguished Community Service Award. His work is also in the coffee table book, In God’s Image: A Global Anabaptist Family, published by Herald Press in cooperation with Mennonite World Conference.

Schedule:

  • The CCMB exhibit opens Sunday, March 12, from 3:30-5:00 p.m. in the church Fellowship Hall. The exhibit will also be open from 9:30 a.m.-noon on the following Sundays through April 2.

  • Dirks will deliver the morning sermon at CCMB on Sunday, March 26. The service starts at 9:30 a.m. He will also speak in the adult Sunday school in the Fellowship Hall at 11:10 a.m.

  • The FPU exhibit will feature an artist’s reception and talk at 7:00 p.m. Monday, March 27 in the North Hall Chapel.