A MIDSUMMER

NIGHT'S COMMUNION

“Having been raised in an orthodox Malayali Syrian Catholic culture, some of my earliest thoughts were conditioned along the lines of the "unquestionable" gender binary which divided people from church pews at baptism to pall-bearing at funerals. Drawing from this heritage and using the more mature lens of an evolving gender spectrum, this piece looks back at the rite of First Holy Communion in a more inclusive light.”

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Religion and religious spaces are often rife with rigid constructs of gender - the Bible itself makes a clear demarcation between the male and female, both in inherent natures and in obligations to society. Take, for instance, the following contradictory verses:

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Growing up, the ‘commandments’ and the sin associated with breaching them clashed with something within Jose, which his (conditioned) mind painted as the devil and his temptations. The First Holy Communion is widely seen as a ‘coming into one’s own’. It asks one to shed all temptations of sin and move forward in God, and spiritual preparation for this sacrament did not stop at stating the 'normal' and marking the rest as 'sin', but went one step further to demand its followers ask for punishment for the sins that reside within their bodies.
 

However, Jose also reflects on aspects of the faith - such as the flowy altar boy outfits, or floral crowns worn by boys at their First Communion - that they were drawn to and found comfort in. With these pieces, Jose attempts to look back at a traumatic time and paint it with an inclusive, empathetic brush, reclaiming this rite of passage for those who were denied a true 'coming into one's own'.

Growing up, the ‘commandments’ and the sin associated with breaching them clashed with something within Jose, which their mind was conditioned to paint as the devil and his temptations.


The First Communion is widely seen as a ‘coming into one’s own’. It asks one to shed all temptations of sin and move forward in God, and spiritual preparation for this sacrament not only stated the 'normal' and marked the rest as 'sin', but went a step further to demand its followers ask for punishment for the sins that reside within their bodies. 

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"Flowers are considered a feminine accessory - except on communion day."

"If a gown is good enough for the altar, why isn't it okay outside the walls of the church?"

"A headdress worn by my sister, an awakening for me"

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Jose, 25

Jose (he/him/she/her) is a self-taught artist and illustrator from Kerala, who draws primarily from their own lived experiences or those of others around them. Ever since their granddad taught them how to draw Gandhi in 3 strokes, they have been sketching every free second of their life. Jose believes the primary aim of art is to affect and change perspectives of the viewers, and to bring to light the lived experiences that are marginalised from the mainstream. Their work often features themes of mental health, gender and sexual identities and a struggle against the norms of society.