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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

THE MOVING SPIRIT (article first published : 2006-09-3)

Paul Weinberg is a nationally and internationally celebrated Durban based photographer. He is launching his new book to coincide with the opening of his solo exhibition, both titled The Moving Spirit. Both events will take place at the KZNSA.

The Moving Spirit is a body of work that brings together a personal spiritual journey of many years undertaken by the photographer.

For the past years, Paul Weinberg has been photographing religious rituals and spiritual practice around his city, Durban and other parts of the country. These include Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Islamic faiths, rituals linked to ancestral veneration and the New Age movement. In some instances, the spiritual practice is largely traditional, as in the Hindu and African ceremonies. In others, they have been influenced by outside forces as in the Zion Christian movement - a creolisation of African tradition and Christianity.

Along the way Paul encountered unexpected commonalities. Trance states cross over African, Hindu and Islamic traditions. There are also small sects that have been washed to South African shores, bringing with them their culture and religion. An example is the Zanzibari community. Descended from a group of slaves, about 150 years ago, they were shipwrecked and landed in Durban. Another example is the Lemba who consider themselves African Jews. They drifted down from Zimbabwe a few centuries ago, and are believed to have descended from one of the lost tribes of Israel (Cohen DNA).

While many South Africans are traditionally Christian, there is still a large following of The African Independent Church movement. The movement described as the “reinterpretation of Christian teaching in an African idiom.” The main group is the Zion Christian Church based in Moria, near Pholokwane. Smaller Zion sects are very prominent throughout the country.

In KwaZulu-Natal, the Ibandla lamaNazaretha (colloquially known as the Shembe Church) attracts mainly Zulu speakers.

These movements allow for the practice of African tradition and Christianity at the same time. They are bound by events, rituals, and pilgrimages that bring members together in visible and symbolic acts of faith and devotion. There is still a strong presence of traditional ancestor veneration widely practiced with an ever-growing number of white converts. Aside from this, traditional rituals like circumcision, the coming of age ceremonies, weddings and funerals are very much part of the spiritual world amongst different African cultures in Southern Africa.

Paul Weinberg describes the way he went about the project. “My approach has been to allow the camera to narrate the journey of spirituality, following a diversity of events and rituals that in some way reflects The Moving Spirit, running through my country and southern Africa. This is not an attempt to be an A-Z on religions in the region but rather a personal journey documenting the spiritual practices that I have chosen to connect with.”

The Moving Spirit exhibition and a book launch opens at the KZNSA on September 5 at 18h00. It runs in the main gallery until September 24.

For more information contact the KZNSA gallery curator, Nathi Gumede, on 031 202 3686, 031 277 1703 or 082 220 0368 or visit www.kznsagallery.co.za




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