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Hand of comfort

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As Christians around the world prepare to celebrate the holiest time of the year under the shadow of the coronavirus, the image of Jesus being comforted by Mary on his way to the cross symbolises the need for us to care for each other in this time of pain and suffering.

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The image is from the Stations of the Cross by Indigenous artist Miriam Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann AM, originally completed in 1974/75 for the new Catholic church in Daily River, Northern Territory.

Miriam Rose

Miriam’s artwork, which can be found in churches, public spaces, galleries and private collections all over Australia and abroad, investigates the relationship between her Christian faith and Aboriginal culture.

Her interpretation of the fourth station of the cross – Jesus meeting his mother on the way to his crucifixion – reflects that when an Aboriginal woman wants to comfort a grown-up son in pain, she touches him with her hand. The hand-touch carries the message of “divine grace and human support that he is sending out to her”, explains Miriam.

In the 13th station, Mary holds Jesus’ dead body, Mary is able to take his body in her arms because once he is dead, Mary’s body and her son’s merge together into one.

Miriam became the Northern Territory’s first fully qualified Aboriginal teacher in 1975. She was an art consultant for the Department of Education and later became the principal of the Catholic school in Nauiyu, her home community.

She has received an Order of Australia for services to Aboriginal people, and was awarded an Honorary PhD in Education from Charles Darwin University.

In 2013 she established the Miriam Rose Foundation to continue her work advocating for experiences that allow Indigenous youth to learn to ‘walk in two worlds’ – Aboriginal culture and mainstream Western culture.

 

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