Sunday, September 30, 2018

Little Known Religions Of The World: Shabakism

Religion is a popular subject throughout the world. It gives people a sense of identity and creates unity among members of a given religious group. Religion forms the basis of one’s faith, way of life, and character. From the traditional religions to the modern religions influenced by science and technology, more than 4,000 religions exist throughout the world. Although Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism are the most popular religions in the world, millions of people follow lesser-known religions. Some lesser-known religions of the world include the Church of All Worlds, Jainism, Raelism, Nation of Yahweh, the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Yezidi, and Shabakism. This article presents an overview of Shabakism.
Overview of Shabakism
Shabakism is a syncretic faith and religion practiced by the Shabak people, who primarily live in the Kurdistan region and Mosul area of Iraq. The religion incorporates certain elements of the Islamic, Christian, and Yezid practices. Although most Shabaks identify as Shia Muslims and a minority consider themselves Sunnis, their actual faith and rituals are different from the Islamic practices. The faith's primary religious text is the Bryuk, also known as the Book of Exemplary Acts, written in Turkoman. Almost 70 percent of the population in the Mosul region of Iraq practices Shabakism, while the rest are Muslims.
Beliefs and Practices
Shabakism appears more like the Sufi order, with a unique interpretation of the “divine reality,” as the divine reality is placed above the literal interpretation of the Quran. The divine reality is understood through mediation led by a spiritual guide known as “Pir,” who also takes charge of other spiritual rituals. The mediation closely resembles that of the Yarsan. Pirs answer to the Supreme Head, also known as Baba. Shabakism also includes certain Christian rituals, such as confession and wine consumption, while the latter is outlawed in Shia. Like Shia Muslims, Shabaks also pilgrimage to places sacred to Yazidi, as well as locations sacred locations to the Shia, including Karbala. The poetry of Ismail I is also considered to be revealed by God to the Shabaks, and they recite this poetry during religious gatherings.
Threats to Shabakism
The Shabaks have been victims of repeated attacks and harassment by Kurdish militants. Those living in the disputed area of Ninewa, and especially Mosul, have been specifically targeted. The killing of more than 1,300 Shabaks since 2003 has significantly reduced the followers of Shabakism. In April 2013, gunmen attacked a Shabak Mosque in the village of Kokjali, killing eight Shabak police. In December 2013, a terrorist attacked Shabaks who were worshiping in the village of Ali Rasho. For their safety, more than 3,000 Shabaks have left their homes and fled to regions dominated by Shia Islam, where Shabakism has been easily neutralized. Apart from constant attacks by Kurdish militias, the growth of Islam, especially in Mosul, in recent years has led to many Shabaks abandoning their religions and converting to Islam. Shabakism is also an unpopular religion in other parts of Iraq and the rest of the world, ultimately hindering its influence and spread.

The Art of Alfons Maria Mucha

Alfons Maria Mucha was born on July  24th, 1860, and died on July 14th, 1939. He was known as Alphonse Mucha, was a Czech Art Nouveau painter and decorative artist, known best for his distinct style. He produced many paintings, illustrations, advertisements, postcards, and designs.
Early Years
Alphonse Maria Mucha was born in the town of Ivancice, (currently a region of the Czech Republic). In 1871, Mucha became a chorister at the Cathedral of Saint Peter and Paul Brno, chorister at the where he received his secondary school education. It is there that he had his first revelation, in front of the richness of Baroque art. During the four years of studying there, he formed a friendship with Leos Janace who would become the greatest Czech composer of his generastion. Although his singing abilities allowed him to continue his education through high school, currently known as Gymnazium Brno, třída Kapitána Jaroše 14, in the Moravian capital of Brno, drawing had been his main hobby since childhood. He worked at decorative painting jobs in Moravia, mostly painting theatrical scenery. In 1879, he relocated to Vienna to work for a major Viennese theatrical design company, while informally augmenting his artistic education. When a fire destroyed his employer's business during 1881 he returned to Moravia, to do freelance decorative and portrait painting. Count Karl Khuen of Mikulov hired Mucha to decorate Hrušovany Emmahof Castle with murals and was impressed enough that he agreed to sponsor Mucha's formal training at the Muncich Academy of Fine Arts. 
Mucha moved to Paris in 1887, and continued his studies at Academie Julian and Academie Corarossi. In addition to his studies, he worked at producing magazine and advertising illustrations. About Christmas,1894, Mucha happened to go into a print shop where there was a sudden and unexpected need for a new advertising poster for a play featuring Sarah Bernhardt, the most famous actress in Paris, at the Theatre de la Renaissance on the Boulevard Saint-Martin. Mucha volunteered to produce a lithographed poster within two weeks, and on January Ist, 1895, the advertisement for the play Gismonda by Victorian Sardou was posted in the city, where it attracted much attention.
Bernhardt was so satisfied with the success of this first poster that she began a six-year contract with Mucha.
Mucha produced a flurry of paintings, posters, advertisements, and book illustrations, as well as designs for jewelry, carpets, wallpaper, and theatre sets in what was termed initially The Mucha Style but became known as Art Nouveau (French for "new art"). Mucha's works frequently featured beautiful young women in flowing, vaguely Neoclassical-looking robes, often surrounded by lush flowers which sometimes formed halos behind their heads. In contrast with contemporary poster makers he used pale pastel colors.
Mucha's style was given international exposure by the 1900 Universal Exhibition in Paris, of which Mucha said, "I think (the Exposition Universelle) made some contribution toward bringing aesthetic values into arts and crafts."
He decorated the Bosnia and Herzegovina Pavilion and collaborated with decorating the Austrian Pavilion. His Art Nouveau style was often imitated. The Art Nouveau style, however, was one that Mucha attempted to disassociate himself from throughout his life; he always insisted that rather than maintaining any fashionable stylistic form, his paintings were entirely a product of himself and Czech art.He declared that art existed only to communicate a spiritual message, and nothing more; hence his frustration at the fame he gained by his commercial art, when he most wanted to concentrate on more artistic projects.
Mucha married Maruška (Marie/Maria) Chytilová on June tenth, 1906, in Prague. The couple visited the U.S. from 1906 to 1910, during which time their daughter, Jaroslava, was born in New York City. They also had a son, Jiri, (born March12th, 1915, in Prague and died April 5th,1991, in Prague) who later became a journalist, writer, screenwriter, author of autobiographical novels and studies of the works of his father. In the U.S., Mucha expected to earn money to fund his nationalistic projects to demonstrate to Czechs that he had not "sold out". He was assisted by millionaire Charles R.Crane, who used his fortune to help promote revolutions and, after meeting Thomas Masaryk, Slavic nationalism. Alphonse and his family returned to the Czech lands and settled in Prague,where he decorated the Theater of Fine Arts, contributed his time and talent to create the murals in the Mayor's Office at the Municipal House, and other landmarks around the city.
When Czechoslovakia won its independence after World War I, Mucha designed the new postage stamps, banknotes, and other government documents for the new state.
Le Pater
Mucha considered his publication Le Pater to be his printed masterpiece, and referred to it in the New York Sun newspaper of January 5th, 1900, as what he had "put (his) soul into". Printed on December 20th, 1899, Le Pater was Mucha's occult examination of the themes of The Lord's Prayer and only 510 copies were produced.
The Slav Epic
Mucha spent many years working on what he considered his life's fine art masterpiece, The Slav Epic (Slovanská epopej), a series of twenty huge paintings depicting the history of the Czech and the Slavic people in general, bestowed to the city of Prague in 1928. He had wanted to complete a series such as this, a celebration of Slavic history, since he was young. From 1963 until 2012 the series was on display in the chateau in Moravsky Krumlov in the South Moravian Region in the Czech Republic. Since 2012, the series has been on display at the National Gallery's Veletrzin Palace in Prague.
The rising tide of fascism during the late 1930's resulted in Mucha's works and his  Slavic nationalism being denounced in the press as 'reactonary'. Mucha’s Slav nationalism and Jewish roots made him a primary target of the Gestapo during Nazi occupation. When German troops moved into Czechoslovakia during the spring of 1939, Mucha was among the first persons to be arrested by the Gestapo.During his interrogation, the aging artist became ill with pneumonia. Though released eventually, he may have been weakened by this event. He died in Prague on July 14th, 1939, due to lung infection, and was interred there in the Vysehrad cemetery. 
Although it enjoys great popularity today, at the time of his death Mucha's style was considered outdated. His son, author Jiri Mucha, devoted much of his life to writing about him and bringing attention to his artwork. In his own country, the new authorities were not interested in Mucha. The Slav Epic was rolled and stored for twenty-five years before being shown in Moravský Krumlov, and a Muncha Museum opened in Prague, managed by his grandson John Mucha.
Mucha's work has continued to experience periodic revivals of interest for illustrators and artists. Interest in Mucha's distinctive style experienced a strong revival during the 1960's (with a general interest in Art Nouveau) and is particularly evident in the psychedelic posters of Hapshash and the Colered Coat, the collective name for British artists Michael English, Nigel Waymouth and Bob Masse.                                              
Mucha's work is a strongly acknowledged influence for Stuckist painter Paul Harvey. 
The band Soilent Green used a picture by Mucha for the cover art of their album Sewn Mouth Secrets. 
Per the band's request, Metromedia purchased the rights to use Mucha's painting Zodiac on the cover of their debut album Gypsy which was released in the fall of 1970 by the band Gypsy. It was also used as an inset on the cover of their second album In the Garden, which was released in 1971 but failed to get much promotion.
One of Mucha's paintings, Quo Vadis or alternately Petronius and Eunice, was the subject of a legal dispute in 1986. The judgment by Richard Posner describes parts of Mucha's life and work biographically.
Among his many other accomplishments, Mucha was also the restorer of Czech Freemasonry. 
One of the largest collections of Mucha's works is in the possession of former world no1 professional tennis player Ivan Lendl, who started collecting his works upon meeting Jiří Mucha in 1982. His collection was exhibited publicly for the first time in 2013 in Prague.
Paintings by Alfons Maria Mucha

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Pictures From The Past, No. 35

Pictures From The Past

The phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words” was coined by American newspaper editor Arthur Brisbane in 1911. It’s a simple notion that applies to many aspects of our lives, but especially to historical photography. Sometimes, one simple picture can tell you more about history than any story you might read or any document you might analyze.

These photographs all tell stories about the historical figures or events that they represent. Once taken simply to document their present, they now help us witness the past. Many photographs only become iconic shots years later, once we understand their importance and historical context. From historical landmarks and famous people to the basic daily routines of the past, these pictures portray the past in a way that we can empathize with and understand more intimately.

Perhaps the wars, poverty, fights for freedom and little miracles of the past have lessons for us that we can use today?