Natalia Mroz – Marks of Devotion

By February 10, 2021 No Comments

Marks of Devotion is a series of images that explores Orthodox Christian practices in Ethiopia. Although the country is modernising rapidly, ancient traditions remain strong, particularly in the holy city of Lalibela and the Tigray region, where ancient churches provide shelter and spiritual solace for thousands of pilgrims, monks and priests.

Northern Ethiopia contains over two hundred churches, carved out by hand from sheer rock cliffs. Most date back to the 6th century, though some are older still, remnants of a much older, pre-Christian sun cult.

I was drawn to the peoples silent contemplation in these holy spaces, and the way in which they demonstrate their devotion by permanently marking their bodies and the landscape with religious icons “ from intricate facial tattoos to churches carved by hand from solid rock, chisel marks clearly visible after thousands of years. By photographing these marks of devotion, I wanted to show peoples firm belief, as well as the timelessness of the practices they engage in. Scenes like these have played out in Ethiopia since Christianity was first introduced in the 3rd century AD.

I begun this photography project in 2009, when I first moved to Ethiopias capital Addis Abeba, and have been returning ever since to climb the vertical cliffs of Tigray, spending time in the monasteries and villages below.

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