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Sacred Geography exhibit at Peterborough’s Mariposa Museum

  • Women of the Kopanang Community in South Africa who created the Kopanang Universe Canticle on display starting Friday at the Mariposa Museum.

    Women of the Kopanang Community in South Africa who created the Kopanang Universe Canticle on display starting Friday at the Mariposa Museum.

  • Mariposa Sacred Geography exhibit<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)

    Mariposa Sacred Geography exhibit

    (Staff photo by Dave Anderson)

  • Mariposa Sacred Geography exhibit<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)

    Mariposa Sacred Geography exhibit

    (Staff photo by Dave Anderson)

  • Mariposa Sacred Geography exhibit<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)

    Mariposa Sacred Geography exhibit

    (Staff photo by Dave Anderson)

  • Mariposa Sacred Geography exhibit<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)

    Mariposa Sacred Geography exhibit

    (Staff photo by Dave Anderson)

  • Mariposa Sacred Geography exhibit<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)

    Mariposa Sacred Geography exhibit

    (Staff photo by Dave Anderson)

  • Two of the panels in the Kopanang Universe Canticle.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)

    Two of the panels in the Kopanang Universe Canticle.

    (Staff photo by Dave Anderson)

  • One of the panels in the Kopanang Universe Canticle.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)

    One of the panels in the Kopanang Universe Canticle.

    (Staff photo by Dave Anderson)

  • David Baum with a Turkish host during Baum's recent hike on Abraham's Path.

    David Baum with a Turkish host during Baum's recent hike on Abraham's Path.

  • David Baum with a Turkish host during Baum's recent hike on Abraham's Path.

    David Baum with a Turkish host during Baum's recent hike on Abraham's Path.

  • Women of the Kopanang Community in South Africa who created the Kopanang Universe Canticle on display starting Friday at the Mariposa Museum.
  • Mariposa Sacred Geography exhibit<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
  • Mariposa Sacred Geography exhibit<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
  • Mariposa Sacred Geography exhibit<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
  • Mariposa Sacred Geography exhibit<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
  • Mariposa Sacred Geography exhibit<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
  • Two of the panels in the Kopanang Universe Canticle.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
  • One of the panels in the Kopanang Universe Canticle.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
  • David Baum with a Turkish host during Baum's recent hike on Abraham's Path.
  • David Baum with a Turkish host during Baum's recent hike on Abraham's Path.

“Many cultures, one earth.”

That’s the theme of a year-long exhibit called “Sacred Geography” that opens Friday at the Mariposa Museum with a display of the Kopanang Creation Canticle, a group of 32 embroidered panels that tell the story of the universe as interpreted by 17 women of South Africa’s Kopanang Community.

“They are unbelievably spectacular,” said Mariposa Executive Director Karla Hostetler about the panels. “They depict the universe as interconnected but with an uncertain future. The women all have AIDS, and they came together to create this amazing art. It calls for us to come together to heal the planet.”

The women draw on both ancient and modern sources for inspiration, including African folklore, the Bible, and the writings of geologist Thomas Berry and scientist Brian Swimme. The artists also incorporate their own stories of struggles with AIDS, domestic violence, poverty and their collective concern for their children.

“This exhibit is really going to take over quite a bit of the museum,” Hostetler said. “The panels will wind up the staircases and all around the central gallery upstairs.

An opening reception for both the Sacred Geography exhibit and the Kopanang Universe Canticle will be held Friday from 6 to 7 p.m. at the museum.

At 7 p.m., the film “Journey of the Universe — An Epic Story of Cosmic, Earth, and Human Transformation” will be screened. In the film, author and evolutionary philosopher Brian Swimme, one of the writers who inspired the South African women, connects such big picture issues as the birth of the cosmos 14 billion years ago, the invisible frontiers of the human genome and our current impact on Earth’s evolutionary dynamics. The film, written by Swimme and Mary Evelyn Tucker, won an Emmy award for best documentary.

Admission is free to the reception and the film.

Hostetler said the Sacred Geography exhibit is planned as a year-long journey around the world.

“Sacred geography is its own field of study now,” she said. “There’s a lot of talk about remapping our world, looking at how different world cultures relate to the earth. What could be more relevant that learning how to live on our earth?”

The first portion of the exhibit, titled “Roots of Faith, Middle East,” will run through June 10. The museum will present photography and folk art that tells the story of a region whose landscape is sacred to people of differing faiths, common origins and entwined histories.

The Middle East series will open March 8, when Josh Weiss will talk about the Abraham’s Path Initiative, an effort to try to bring together people throughout the war-torn Middle East by focusing on the shared traditions of the Jewish, Christian and Muslim religions, which all honor Abraham as a common ancestor. Weiss is managing director of the initiative, which is working to eventually create a walking trail that retraces the journey of Abraham, based on Biblical accounts, so people of all faiths will have an opportunity not just to visit sacred places, but also to talk freely to each other about ways to try to bring peace to the region.

David Baum of Peterborough, who recently led a trip on a portion of the path in Turkey, said Tuesday that the group follows the motto, “First you walk, then you talk.”

Baum said the genesis of the idea came from Dr. William Ury, a founder of the Harvard Negotiation Project and co-author of the book on negotiation titled “Getting to YES.”

“Bill says the Middle East is like the pinched nerve of the body,” Baum said. “If you relieve the tensions there, it will have big impact all over the world.”

Baum said Ury realized that the Jewish, Christian and Muslim traditions had some common beliefs. They all traced their heritage to Abraham and they all practiced pilgrimages. He said Ury founded Abraham’s Path to try to recreate the journey that Abraham took, in the hope that building a trail could address issues of communication, crossing borders, ecotourism, land mine eradication and other issues plaguing the region.

“Right now the path goes through war-torn areas,” Baum said. “It’s evolving. Thousands of people have walked sections.”

In December, Baum led a week-long walk on a portion of Abraham’s Path, hiking with people from Israel, Jordan, Palestine and Turkey who were interested in making the path a reality.

“We traced a route in southern Turkey, starting in Urfa, where Abraham was born,” he said. “We were relatively close to the Syrian border, close enough to hear some of the shelling. ... It was an extraordinary experience. As we would hike, we’d stay in tribal homes in the small communities. We’d spend time in people’s homes at lunch. The Turkish people were among the most generous and kind of anyone I have ever met. They take the concept of hospitality very seriously and always provide the best of what they have.”

Weiss, who travels to Turkey several times a year, will talk about how the path impacts people at many levels.

“It is a regional endeavor that links countries in practical ways, such as tourism,” Weiss said in a description of the project posted on the Mariposa’s website. “It is a bridge across widening gulfs between East and West. It offers a new way to see and experience the Middle East. And it is a platform for many types of activities, including cultural and physical diplomacy, empowerment of women and youth, job creation, and the preservation of historic/cultural sites.”

Weiss’s talk will be held at the museum at 7 p.m. on March 8. Admission is $5 for adults (free for Mariposa Museum members).

Dave Anderson can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 233 or danderson@ledgertranscript.com. He’s on Twitter at @DaveAndersonMLT.

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