Issanama or The Christ Commission is an artistic collaboration between our founder Paul Abraham and traditional miniaturist and third-generation artist, Manish Soni of Bhilwara, Rajasthan. The Issanama illustrates episodes from the Bible and the life of Jesus Christ in the exquisite landscape of the Hamzanama, the earliest expression of our country’s celebrated Indo-Islamic art tradition. Paul Abraham says, “I thought it would be fascinating to have someone who is steeped in Indian artistic traditions interpret jointly with me a theme that is close to my heart, the theme of Jesus, but humanise him in the interpretation.”
For the first time ever, the Issanama was presented to the public at the Serendipity Arts Festival 2018 in Goa. On show at the Museum of Christian Art in the Church of Santa Monica, Old Goa, the exhibition of 12 completed works was part of a larger show called The Sacred Everyday curated by art critique, writer and poet Ranjit Hoskote, which examined how elements of the divine are leaked into the rituals of our daily life in India. Besides the Issanama, The Sacred Everyday also included five other artworks from the Sarmaya collection: three paintings on the passion of Christ by Vishwanath Nageshkar and two Tholu Bommalaata puppets, both displayed at the Adil Shah Palace in Panjim.
Being as it was in the neighbourhood of such important landmarks as the Basilica of Bom Jesus, the Issanama drew a large and diverse audience of locals and travellers. The Church of Santa Monica boasts a towering ceiling three storeys high, ornate woodworked altars, the miraculous Weeping Cross and impeccably restored church furniture and antiquities, courtesy of the Museum of Christian Art. The museum’s permanent collection of Christian art was also exhibited in the church for the duration of the Serendipity Arts Festival.