Redemption Song

Oil on Canvas Board, 14”x11

From the series "Close to Home" from A Sanctified Art.

Scripture reference: Luke 1:46b-55

I’ve read the Magnificat many times, but only recently have I started reading it for what it is: a protest song. Listen to the tone: “[God] has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly”. It’s a song of vindication against oppressive powers. 

Some ancient manuscripts attribute this song to Elizabeth, not Mary. Of course, an older woman would be able to exegete the times from both communal history and lived experience. But it’s also true that the gift of prophecy is no respecter of age. They each have different proximities to the Messiah: one’s offspring will prepare the way, and another’s will be the way. Both are able to sing the song because both are oppressed, which brings me to the inspiration for this portrait: Ahed Tamimi.

An activist from childhood, Tamimi became a symbol of Palestinian resistance. Because of her recognizability, her family sent her to live with relatives in Ramallah, where she’d not have to face the threat of checkpoints. At the age of sixteen, she was arrested for slapping a police officer to protect her disabled cousin. The reference for this painting was a photo taken of her as she was being detained by Israeli forces for trying to intervene in her mother’s arrest. 

This visual expresses the mood of the Magnificat in a new way for me: A young girl under occupation, sent away for her own safety, responding to not only her own oppression, but to that of her community. She believes that righteousness is on her side, but she’s still in anguish. The Gaudete (joy) colors of Advent surround her, but with that joy is remarkable pain. As for the key, it’s there, but very tenuous. Can you even see it? Freedom is both here and not yet.