Original Research - Special Collection: Yolanda Dreyer Festschrift

God as burden: A theological reflection on art, death and God in the work of Joost Zwagerman

Rein Brouwer
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 73, No 4 | a4338 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v73i4.4338 | © 2017 Rein Brouwer | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 07 October 2016 | Published: 30 June 2017

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Rein Brouwer, Department of Practical Theology, Faculty of Theology, University of Pretoria, South Africa and Protestant Theological University, Netherlands

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In one of his essays on art, Dutch author and essayist Joost Zwagerman (1963–2015) reflects onthe work of (Dutch) South African artist Marlene Dumas (1953). Zwagerman addresses inparticular Dumas’ My Mother Before She Became My Mother (2010), painted 3 years after hermother died. In his reflections, Zwagerman proposes an interpretation of Dumas’ work. Hesuggests that Dumas, in her art, does not accept the omnipotence of death. Maybe againstbetter judgement, but Dumas keeps creating images that not only illustrate the desire formeaning but also embody this desire. The image and the desire for meaning merge in Dumas’paintings. The painting itself becomes an autonomous ‘desire machine’, according toZwagerman. In this article, a (practical) theological reading of Zwagerman’s own posthumouslypublished volume of poetry, ‘Wakend over God’ (2016), is presented, with a specific interest inart, death and God. The sacramental hermeneutics of Richard Kearney and the theopoetics ofJohn Caputo are brought into the conversation to elicit the dimensions of faith and religion inZwagerman’s own ‘desire machine’.


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