From the Latin word ‘monstrare’ (to show), a monstrance, is a vessel often used to honour and exhibit a holy or pious object (e.g the ‘host’).
Monstrance is a re-invention of the Belem Monstrance
The Belem Monstrance, now in the collection of the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga Lisbon, was made in 1503 by Portuguese goldsmith Gil Vicente.
During his second Voyage Discovery De Gama threatened to burn down Kilwa ––an island kingdom now part of Tanzania if the island did not submit to the Portuguese and swear loyalty to King Manuel.
The gold used in the Belem Monstrance was taken from the Amīr (king) of Kilwa by Vasco De Gama as a tribute.
This monstrance is for the living planet — A secular visual prayer. A Demonstration.
Instead of ‘the host’ (bread transformed into the body of Christ) in the centre of the monstrance is a Tektite.
Tektites are formed by the impact of a meteorite. When molten material from the earth’s surface returns from being thrown up into space it rapidly cools and transforms into a black natural glass. You could almost say they are pieces of burnt planet.
Instead of Vasco De Gama’s gold, I used coral sand and animal bones found here in the mountains and on the shore, including whales, fish and bird bones.
Monstrance stands in a case; a tabernacle, and can only be seen through 5cm gaps on each side. 4 LED lights cast strong shadows onto the outside of the case.
The choice of materials can be read in two ways. Primarily it is a response to the current biodiversity crisis brought by climate change. Secondarily it is a response to the colonial context of the making of the Belem Monstrance, to the sourcing and acquisition of the gold and to the legacy of colonisation.
These stories from our history weave into what is happening now: into the stripping of natural resources, Africa’s disproportional vulnerability to the effects of climate change and the current ‘voyages of migration’ from Africa due to climate related instability.
Monstrance is an offering to the preciousness and fragility of our living planet and my hope is that it provokes questions and encouragement to nurture our beautiful living planet.