Others Imagining Initiative (OII) is a group of artists, writers, and scholars passionate about expanding preconceived notions of how racial representations from biblical narratives are depicted in our culture.
Race is a social construct with real material effects. Christianity worships a transcendent God who became embodied in a particular place and time, in order to be for all peoples and all times. Its narrative, the Bible, invites readers to see themselves in its characters and this eastern text became an important basis of western literature. The Others Imagining Initiative believes these conversations converge in questions of visual representation.
From films such as Noah and Ben Hur to the now iconic blond, blue eyed “Breck” Jesus portrait, portrayals of biblical narratives perpetuate a white interpretation of biblical characters, especially of Christ. Because of the effects of race, “realistic” figural representation, however complicated, still matters. In both overtly religious as well as more secular environments, images of these biblical characters often provide the first means by which people begin to understand their own place in the world.
We welcome art that powerfully reveals new and relevant meanings in these traditional narratives and also normalizes the presence of people who have been marginalized, in lieu of tired visual tropes and historical “accuracy.” How might racial conflict change the way we see the story of Job in the 21st century? How do 65.3 million displaced people globally reflect on the stories of Ruth, Esther, and Daniel? What does it mean for Jesus to associate himself with “the least of these” — and how can picturing who “these” are give a clearer image of his character?