Centenary of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s passing: Artistic works mark historic occasion
BAHÁ’Í WORLD CENTRE — Preparations for worldwide commemorations of the centenary of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s passing in November are giving rise to an outpouring of artistic expressions inspired by His life and work as a herald of peace, a champion of social justice, and upholder of the principle of the oneness of humanity.
Through music, animation, painting, theatre, storytelling, poetry, and other art forms, people in virtually every part of the world are exploring spiritual concepts addressed by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in His talks and writings on such themes as the elimination of prejudice, the equality of women and men, universal peace, and selfless service to humanity.
The following is but a sampling of the countless artistic works that are being created throughout the world in honor of a figure with a distinct station.
An artist from Ethiopia created these two collages from intricate paper cutouts of different colors based on the design concept of the Shrine of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (left) and the Shrine of the Báb (right).
This painting by an artist from Canada depicts a view of ‘Akká, where ‘Abdu’l-Bahá lived for four decades. He arrived in that city as a prisoner and an exile alongside His Father, Bahá’u’lláh. Despite the many tragedies and adversities He suffered there, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá made ‘Akká His home and dedicated Himself to serving the people of that city, especially its poor. In time, He came to be known and revered throughout the region.
This song was created by a musician from Cameroon who has put to music a prayer composed by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. The prayer reads, in part, “O Thou forgiving Lord! Thou art the shelter of all these Thy servants. Thou knowest the secrets and art aware of all things. We are all helpless, and Thou art the Mighty, the Omnipotent.”
In His writings, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has made reference to the important role of the indigenous peoples of the world in contributing to the advancement of civilization. This piece by an indigenous artist from the United States brings together traditional indigenous art and the Baháʼí ringstone symbol, which symbolizes the relationship between humanity and God through His Manifestations.
Participants of Bahá’í community-building activities in Stavanger, Norway, have been exploring different aspects of the life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá through the arts. They are seen here making a paper tree for an upcoming play.
After reflecting on ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s promotion of the Bahá’í principle of universal education, an artist from the United Kingdom created this triptych inspired by the following passage quoted from the Bahá’í writings: “Regard man as a mine rich in gems of inestimable value. Education can, alone, cause it to reveal its treasures…”
This recording of a choir in Samoa features quotations from Bahá’u’lláh’s Hidden Words:
O SON OF MAN! Deny not My servant should he ask anything from thee, for his face is My face; be then abashed before Me.
O SON OF LIGHT! Forget all save Me and commune with My spirit. This is of the essence of My command, therefore turn unto it.
O SON OF MAN! Put thy hand into My bosom, that I may rise above thee, radiant and resplendent.
O SON OF MAN! The temple of being is My throne; cleanse it of all things, that there I may be established and there I may abide.
In Switzerland, participants of Bahá’í community-building activities drew on their diverse cultural backgrounds to create this quilt featuring metaphors inspired by the life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. The quilt was gifted to their local community center.
These two ceramic compositions were made by an artist in Kazakhstan depicting imagery from the writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá on universal peace.
The Nyota Ya Alfajiri Choir (Morning Star Choir), comprising youth in Kakuma, northern Kenya, has composed this song about the life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and His unique station in Bahá’í history.
An artist from Kazakhstan created this pen drawing after reflecting on imagery from this prayer composed by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.
In the Netherlands, a stamp has been designed for the centenary that features a view of the design concept of the Shrine of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.
Musicians from different countries collaborated on a song, titled “Be the Light,” which was inspired by the following quotation from ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s writings: “Divine education is that of the Kingdom of God: it consists in acquiring divine perfections, and this is true education.”
An artist in Singapore created this painting after reflecting on ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s resilience and perseverance in the face of the great difficulties He endured during His lifetime.
An animation titled “Through Their Eyes,” produced in the United States, presents commentary from notable historical figures who were admirers of the Bahá’í Faith, including Leo Tolstoy, Kahlil Gibran, and Yone Noguchi.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, several musicians have recorded a song about the extraordinary qualities of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s character and His service to humanity.
An artist from Romania created this illustration of the room in the House of ‘Abdu’lláh Páshá in ‘Akká where a series of table talks were given by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá between 1904 and 1906 in response to questions posed by Laura Dreyfus-Barney, an American Bahá’í resident in Paris. The transcriptions of the talks were later published as the book Some Answered Questions.
A group of children in Australia created these origami pieces after reading a story about ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in which He sells an expensive coat that He had received in order to buy more coats for those in need.
An artist from Canada has prepared paper cards, each containing a prayer composed by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. The prayer cards are illuminated by paintings of flowers inspired by the imagery of the natural world found in these prayers, including the following: “They have bloomed like sweet blossoms and are filled with joy like the laughing rose. Wherefore, O Thou loving Provider, graciously assist these holy souls by Thy heavenly grace which is vouchsafed from Thy Kingdom…”
An artist in Tunisia created these watercolor paintings based on the design concept for the Shrine of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.
This painting by an artist in India evokes profound metaphors from ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s writings on the equality of women and men.
This song was created by a group of musicians in Singapore who put to music passages from the writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.
Participants of Bahá’í community-building activities in South Africa created these artistic pieces, which were inspire by stories from ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s life on the themes of selfless service to humanity and love.
The Bahá’í community of Colombia has produced four songs about ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s call for selfless service to humanity.
This is one of several videos in which children and youth in Colombia share stories about ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s service to humanity.
An animation from Armenia puts to music the following prayer composed by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá: “O God, guide me, protect me, make of me a shining lamp and a brilliant star. Thou art the Mighty and the Powerful.”
An artist in Canada has produced a series of illustrations of significant places associated with ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. The top-left image depicts the design concept of His Shrine, the top-right image is of the Mansion of Bahjí, and the bottom image is of the House of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in Haifa.
Different artists in Iran created these calligraphic works inspired by prayers and writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.
This animation is one of several that have been created in Iran, incorporating passages from the writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá about the spiritual dimension of life.
Youth from Timor-Leste have composed this song about selfless service to humanity.
This is one of several songs created by musicians in Iran about the life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. The songs address themes such as joy and spiritual upliftment, nearness to God, and peace.
This abstract painting from the Netherlands was inspired by a hopeful vision of the future as found in the Bahá'í teachings.
A musician in Macau has released this song about ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s unique station in Bahá’í history.
A musician from Ireland and a composer from Singapore have produced an album that sets passages from the writings of Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to music. The album cover has been created by an artist in Spain.
This illustration is part of a set of pen drawings by an artist from Chile that depict places associated with ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. This drawing is of the entrance to the Maxwell residence in Montreal, Canada, where He gave talks to public audiences during his ten-day visit to that city in 1912. His talks on themes such as the oneness of religion, the elimination of prejudice, and economic inequality were widely covered by English- and French-language newspapers.
This animated video created by the Bahá’í community of Italy puts to music a prayer composed by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, which reads, in part, “O God! Educate these children. These children are the plants of Thine orchard, the flowers of Thy meadow, the roses of Thy garden.”
This art exhibit in Germany invites reflection on ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s words of love, unity, and harmony. Framed quotations from His writings are set among artworks they have inspired.
In this video, members of India’s Bahá’í community share stories about ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s love for all people.
In this video, participants of community-building activities in a neighborhood of Brisbane, Australia, perform songs about the life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.
This painting by an artist in Peru uses light as a metaphor for ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s call for unity.
This is a recording of songs performed at a gathering in the Klostergården neighborhood of Lund, Sweden, by participants engaged in community-building activities.
This song, titled “Storm,” was composed by people across the United States and touches on various themes, including navigating the challenging times that humanity is facing through service to society.
This digital artwork, created by an artist in the United States, is inspired by the words of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá on the equality of women and men, in which He likens humanity to a bird with two wings.
These cards were prepared by an artist in Fukushima, Japan, featuring passages from a series of public talks given by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in Paris on different themes, such as the role of religion in promoting unity and the true purpose of life.
Participants in community-building activities in South Africa have created clay cutouts of various shapes and sizes that will be arranged together to form a nine-pointed star, a symbol of the Bahá’í Faith. The number nine represents unity and perfection.
Musicians in Baku, Azerbaijan, have written this song about service to society with lyrics in Azerbaijani, Turkish, Russian, Persian, and English. This song is also inspired by the historic ties of the city of Baku with ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. The early development of the Bahá’í community of Baku was fostered by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.
An artist from the United Kingdom created these paintings after reflecting on ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s statement “The more often the captain of a ship is in the tempest and difficult sailing the greater his knowledge becomes.”
While in lockdown, a family in Romania recorded a dramatic presentation of key events from the first days of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s visit to Europe in 1911. The play, featured in this video, depicts some of the people who met ‘Abdu’l-Bahá recalling the transformative effect that these encounters had on them.
After reflecting on ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s love for the indigenous peoples of the world and on the passage from the Bahá’í writings which states that all people are “the flowers of one garden,” an indigenous artist in Canada collaborated with a seamstress and dozens of other people to create embroidery featuring traditional indigenous beadwork.
These illustrations for children by an artist in Spain explore concepts from the Bahá’í teachings about education, drawing on the following statement from Bahá’u’lláh: “Regard man as a mine rich in gems of inestimable value. Education can, alone, cause it to reveal its treasures, and enable mankind to benefit therefrom.”
This video features a choir from Goodenough Island, Papua New Guinea, performing songs about the Bahá’í House of Worship that is currently being constructed in Port Moresby.
This mandala was embroidered by a Bolivian artist who was inspired by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s immense love for all of humanity.
A mezzo-soprano and tenor duo in Russia put to music, in an operatic style, a prayer composed by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. The prayer reads, “O God, guide me, protect me, make of me a shining lamp and a brilliant star. Thou art the Mighty and the Powerful.”
This pen drawing by an artist from New Zealand is among several others that will be included in an upcoming publication, titled “Meditations on Some Answered Questions,” in honor of the centenary of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s passing.
More songs produced in honor of the centenary of the passing of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá can be found on this playlist.