The Young Writer's Endeavor, an annual program where Bahá'í youth and their friends of the Faith from around the world come together to build their power of expression in different literary mediums. This was comics week, and today was the day they all turned in their work, and the facilitators read their comics and returned them with feedback. You knew you would be blown away, that always happens with youth. But man...
Some of the youth created slice of life comics. One of our girls wrote a comic which had only one line between two friends sitting in a crowded room: "When you said feast, I thought you meant food." The kind of thing Bahá'ís would read and say, "That's us!", that would make us feel seen. Another of our girls wrote a comic about a bear on a computer being asked to give a presentation about 'Abdu'l-Bahá to their virtual class. It was such a mood. Not only did she give a serious explanation of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and His importance to Bahá'ís, she also captured the feeling of being a Bahá'í youth, or a youth in general in the year of virtual, and all the awkwardness and humor that comes with that (a bear is a genius symbol for someone who just wants to hibernate.) For another girl, it was a short comic about the excitement of visiting the temple of Santiago, Chile for the first time; with a creative use of panels to show a child-like rise of suspense, and a masterful use of empty space to create awe. You've always wanted to see more Bahá'í art like this; that serves not only to teach the Faith's principles, but also just to paint portraits of what it's like to be us. How it feels to be part of a culture bent on building and dreaming of things we've never seen before, in the smallness of its mundane, candid, and casual moments.
One boy drew a comedy strip. He and others were incredibly skilled with knowing how to "abbreviate" details; how simply you can draw something while still eloquently saying what you're trying to say. Visual appeal through simplicity. In his case, he managed to create the most expressive facial expressions with the simplest eyes and eyebrows and no mouths, which really worked with the comedic tone. On top of that was his incredibly developed understanding of humor, telling layers on top of layers of jokes within a few seconds, including a meta-joke about a guy stressed out about creating art under deadlines (drawn for people who made a group of youth make art under a deadline.) Bahá'í art needs more comedy. All the current artists (like you) are so proper and serious lol.
Another comic which was a mood was by a friend who identifies as atheist and who's commented a couple times that she doesn't know how to pray. Yet her comic was of a prayer: "This is but a leaf which the winds of the will of thy Lord, the Almighty, the All-Praised, have stirred." A drawing of a leaf blowing in the wind without a will of its own; a visual mastery of both silence and motion. She hand-drew the panels too (without a straight-edge), giving each of the squares a quirky shape, though they attempted symmetry. Imperfection made into the message. Is that not a prayer; imperfect humans trying to become more perfect, more aligned with God through surrender?
Then there were the ones where you could tell the youth discovered something drawing it. The girl who discovered a way to visually capture "unity in diversity," a series of perfectly symmetrical panels, each with an identical drawing of a hand holding a book. Combined with the visual interest of the different colors of those books, representing the scriptures of different religions, and skin tones. And when she broke that symmetry, a large panel showing the world shared by all beliefs, it had impact. An understanding of how to build something to create a feeling by breaking it.
In each of your feedback notes, you say in different ways that reading each of their comics, as a Bahá'í comic artist, was like a dream coming true. Like peaking into the future of something you love, in this case comics communicating the Bahá'í Faith and Bahá'í culture, and seeing that that future will be beautiful.
"We have to wait only a few years to see how the spirit breathed by Bahá'u'lláh will find expression in the work of the artists. What you and some other Bahá'ís are attempting are only faint rays that precede the effulgent light of a glorious morn. We cannot yet value the part the Cause is destined to play in the life of society. We have to give it time. The material this spirit has to mould is too crude and unworthy, but it will at last give way and the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh will reveal itself in its full splendour." -letter on behalf of Shoghi Effendi
(Image: from "A Rainbow's Promise" by our brilliant Layli G.)