Artist for 2012 WDP theme “Let Justice Prevail” Malaysia
Hanna Cheriyan Varghese, 1938-2009
Based on Eulogy by Rev. Dr. Hermen Shastri
General Secretary, Council of Churches of Malaysia, 14th June 2009
Through her gift of art and the love she manifested in her person, Hanna touched many people, her church, the ecumenical movement and organizations:
- World Council of Churches
- Christian Conference of Asia
- Asian Christian Art Association
- Overseas Ministries Study Center- New Haven, USA
Those of us, who knew Hanna, remember her as an unassuming, gentle, tranquil and creative person. She was born with the gift of art. She began to define her world through art from the tender age of six. Along the way she experimented with various forms of art, finally specializing, and making her impact through batik work.
Hanna was surrounded by a supportive and religious family, who are all active members of the Syrian Orthodox Church. Church attendance, prayer and Bible reading always played a prominent part in the family.
No wonder Christian Art became her main stay. Drawing richly from her Orthodox spirituality, she was able to infuse her art with a dazzling interplay of color, mystery and imagery, akin to the effect that icons have in Orthodox devotion.
This is what Hanna had to stay about her love and inspiration for Christian Art: “Thoughts and imagery from the Bible Text are intertwined, and sometimes the vision comes in a flash. But most of the time the images develop through a constant process of meditation. I have a responsibility to present the right image. Visual images reveal more of one’s mind than words. That is why art has been used in education, contemplation, meditation and veneration in Christian tradition.”
Hanna has blessed her family, her husband and three daughters, her church, Christians in Asia and the rest of the world with the art pieces that she has left behind. It will serve as her beautiful legacy. Her art accompanied many significant international church conferences and institutions. Here is just a few:
- In 1995 – Her art piece entitled “Hope in God” adorned the plenary Hall of the Assembly of the Christian Conference of Asia held in Colombo.
- In 1999 – her art was featured in the Worship Book of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, of the Vatican and the World Council of Churches under the theme “Behold I Make All Things New”, and used around the world.
- In 2004 – Her art with the theme “Receive One Another in Love” took center stage at the conference of the plenary commission of Faith and Order that was held in Kuala Lumpur. Our National newspapers had caption of the then Prime Minister of Malaysia, Abdullah Badawi, delivering his speech with her art in the background. Her art is also on the cover of the official report of the Conference.
- In 2010 the CCM hosted the 13th Assembly of the Christian Conference of Asia in Kuala Lumpur. Over 500 delegates from different parts of Asia including representatives of the Asian Christian Art Association were present. While Hanna would have wanted to prepare a backdrop, she was not able to do so. In order that her contribution to Asian Christian Art will be recognized and remembered, CCA arranged for a small exhibition of her paintings be on display for the duration of the Assembly.
Hanna has taught us that life can be made beautiful if we can use the gifts God has given to us to touch other lives. She was passionately dedicated to exploring new forms and courageously inventive in her painting, up until the weeks before she died in Kuala Lumpur on June 12, aged 71.
Just as her paintings communicate the love of God and blessed so many, she would wish that we so live to bless others.
As I begin, let me first and foremost convey to Prof. George and to Georgina, Johanna and Sharmin, to the rest of the family and relatives, the deepest sympathies and condolences of the President of the Council of Churches of Malaysia, Rev. Dr. Thomas Philips, and on my own behalf.