In his classic Ecstatic Religion: A Study of Shamanism and Spirit Possession, I. M. Lewis (1971) contends that ritual, belief, and spiritual experience are the three cornerstones of religion, with the third certainly being the most important. Although disputed, this thesis strongly resonates with trends and themes currently taken up by gallerists and exhibition curators. Last year saw the launch of two major exhibitions on the topic of ecstasy: one at the Musée d’ethnographie de Genève (MEG) in Switzerland entitled Afrique: Les religions de l’extase (Africa: The ecstatic religions) and the other one simply called EKSTASE (Ecstasy) at the Kunstmuseum Stuttgart in Germany.
On New Year’s Day, the world was treated to the spectacle of a 640-kilometer-long “Women’s Wall” in Kerala (South India). This human chain of more than five million women stretched the length of the state, making a spectacular statement for the “renaissance values” of women’s equity and rational thinking. Progressive organizations linked to Kerala’s Communist government organized the demonstration to counter the hate-filled Hindu protests that had been ongoing since 28 September 2018, when the Supreme Court of India ruled that the Sabarimala temple’s ban on women of menstruating age was unconstitutional and had to be lifted. Implementation of this court order had so far been sabotaged by the militant protests of orthodox Hindus, fueled by the BJP (the Hindu nationalist party).