Organized and presented by The Museum for African Art, New York. Guest Curator Jacques Mercier is author and researcher at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Paris. Support for the exhibition was provided in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities, a federal agency, the New York State Council on the Arts, the City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture and the County of San Diego Community Enhancement Program. The national tour of the exhibition was sponsored in full by Zeneca Pharmaceuticals. Prior to its arrival at Mingei, the exhibition had been shown in New York City, Orlando, and Iowa City .
A documentary publication written by Jacques Mercier and published by The Museum for African Art accompanied the exhibition.
ART THAT HEALS was the first exhibition in the United States devoted to the healing arts of Ethiopia. The exhibition featured approximately fifty parchment scrolls, books and drawings made by Ethiopian clerics from the 16th to the 20th centuries as well as works by contemporary artist-clerics that demonstrate the continuing vibrancy of the culture’s age-old healing arts.
In Ethiopian culture, art is an important part of the healing process. Ethiopian Orthodox Christian, Galasha (Jewish) and Muslim clerics, instructed in the secret art of healing, create parchment scrolls to combat their patients’ diseases. These healing scrolls are decorated with prayers and traditional symbols drawn from a complex iconography. Commissioned by patients and prepared specifically for them, the length of a scroll reflects the patient’s height and the design one’s ailment. Historically, the personalized scroll was often destroyed when the patient had no more use for it. Fortunately, many have survived.