Light in Silent Darkness: Paintings by Deafblind Rabbi-Priest
A book of paintings by a South African priest who is deaf and blind has been published, marking the 50th anniversary of his ordination.
Redemptorist Father Cyril Axelrod, deaf from birth, converted to Catholicism in 1965, and after studying at St John Vianney Seminary in Pretoria, he was ordained in Johannesburg in 1970. A condition called Usher syndrome robbed him of his sight later in life. Fr Cyril has spent his life ministering to the deaf. He communicates through fingerspelling.
But the priest also has an incredible artistic side – he creates paintings by using a technique involving strings by which he forms the outlines of his motifs, and more strings to identify the colours he used in his art. His sketches are created freehand. He visualises the scenes he paints from his memory and imagination. Motifs range from biblical scenes to the BoKaap in Cape Town to still-lifes.
These artistic endeavours moved his close friend and fellow Redemptorist Father Larry Kaufmann to edit a book of Fr Axelrod’s paintings, titled Light in Silent Darkness: Paintings by Deafblind Rabbi-Priest, and published by Redemptorist Pastoral Publications (RPP) in Merrivale, KwaZulu-Natal.
“I was convinced of the miraculous gift of his artistic skills, so I spent six months collating Cyril’s drawings and paintings, and allocating them to different individuals to write reflections,” Fr Kaufmann said.
Among those who wrote reflections on particular paintings are artist Steven Raphaely, iconographer Br Richard Maidwell CSsR, floral artists Gail Taverner, Jill Hoskin, and Rev Delysia Timm, Fr Mark James OP, Fr Michael van Heerden, Prof Tally Palmer, and more.
A particularly moving reflection is offered by 18-year-old Christopher Cerfontyne of Port Elizabeth, who as a young child quickly mastered finger-spelling so that he could communicate with his “hero”, Fr Axelrod.
Fr Kaufmann added. “Cyril’s humanity, humour, spirituality, pastoral wisdom and 50 years of dedicated priesthood are truly present in this book.”
Light in Silent Darkness, which includes 36 paintings and sketches in high-quality reproduction, sells for R300. It is available online at www.rpp.org.za or from:
Carmen (Cape Town) 082 949-0044 • Bonnie (E Cape) 083 357-2610 • Janet (Redemptorist Pastoral Publications) 083 228-0297 or email@example.com
The Southern Cross interviewed Fr Cyril Axelrod on his 50 years of priesthood and his book of painting in their February 2021 issue, out now.
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