Depictions of traditional Christianity with a modern twist draped the walls of Ballroom U in the Student Union Thursday evening as the photographs of the "In His Image" art exhibit were revealed.
As the curtains are pulled away, the faces of all of the spectators lit up as their eyes danced from picture to picture.
"In His Image", put on by The Society of African-American Students (SAAS), is an event the SAAS creative team has worked tirelessly to bring to life since the beginning of the school year. In charge of the exhibit are the two creative directors Hailey Spillers and Camryn Titus.
Spillers, a senior biochemistry major, explained the annual art exhibit is an examination of black people's views of Christianity and the Abrahamic faith.
"We just wanted to depict the traditional figures of Christianity since most of them don't look like us," Spillers said.
Titus, a junior biochemistry major, also explained the art exhibit is to help black people see themselves from a different perspective.
"It helps black people see themselves in a light that they wouldn't normally see in Western culture," Titus said.
The art exhibit included five different exhibits, each with a different focus.
Exhibit A focuses on Michaelangelo's "The Creation of Adam" but has a contemporary twist on it. Exhibit B has a similar portrayal of Leonardo da Vinci's "The Last Supper". Exhibit C shows Michaelangelo's "The Pieta". The two different photographs in Exhibit C contrast a traditional and contemporary view and tie the scene to the African-American struggle over the past few centuries.
Exhibit D shows the traditional "Motherboard" in the black church. Exhibit E shows the models reading famous works of literature that are important to religion in the black community.
Jazzmine Butler, a junior fashion design major who was a model for the exhibition, explained she was able to learn more about herself and her heritage by being a model in the exhibit.
"I'm in two pictures, but I really didn't know what it was about. But as I got to be in the pictures, I was glad because I was able to learn something that I did not know because I'm not that well-equipped with African-American studies. That's also why I joined the club to get more involved and to learn more about my heritage," Butler said.
According to the event's program, the purpose of the exhibit is to "examine the black religious experience as it relates to Christianity by recreating classical art pieces." The exhibit was an attempt to confront the racial biases that African-Americans have experienced over the past four centuries. The creative team of SAAS recreated the pieces to include black people in the culture that refused to acknowledge their place.
The exhibit shows not only the challenges that black people have faced with the Eurocentric views of Christianity but also how black people have come to grips with spirituality and Christianity in the present day and how it has formed their ways of living their day-to-day lives.
Mr. Donald Shaffer, director of African-American studies, is the faculty advisor for SAAS, and he explained the importance of having an exhibit like this at Mississippi State University and exactly what it means to him.
"Ultimately for African-Americans, this has been a challenge for at least the last 300 years to see ourselves within the context of human civilization and argue for our place among the people whose worthiness as individuals and cultural contributors as thinkers is a given. It's their birthright. And it's something that black people have had to fight for, argue for, preach for, write for and it's not something that we have ever been able to take for granted in the ways that others have. And this exhibition gives us some insight into that struggle and just as important it gives us insight into the beauty of that experience," Shaffer said.
The exhibit will stay up from Oct. 29 until Nov. 25 and then will return in February for Black History Month.