Creating the Image

for our Subud Germany Banner

by Rusydah Ziesel

During our 2014 national congress, a process was set in motion through a banner design which Arifah Gebhardt had brought with her. Her design felt like a journey into our past. You might be aware that the history of Germany is a very special one due to the events during the Second World War.... It reminded us of old wounds and touched upon old pain. Soon it became clear that it was not appropriate to take this design to world congress.

Once again in my life I was struck by the power of images. Standing there observing the discussion one man said something like: Should we not ask ourselves the question how we want to be perceived by the international Subud community?

“Well then," I asked myself, "who are we?” 
“We are Subud Germany! And who am I being German?”

I grew up and was opened here – but do I feel German? And seriously, what on earth does it mean to be German? What is the meaning of being German and having a nationality? For about 13 years I had lived in Austria.

In that moment at national congress I suddenly remembered my first latihan in Germany when, about seven years ago, my husband Anwar and I had moved back to Germany settling down at Lake Constance. I was on my own in our flat when a spontaneous latihan arose which I decided to follow. In this latihan I felt like a huge tree which had its crown with all the twigs and branches stretched far into the sky in bright light. My trunk – wide and strong. My roots – anchored deep, deep down in the soil. No storm on earth could have uprooted me. I felt so strong and clear. – And yet completely pure! I was simply there! Nothing more! Then a pride arose! A good pride! Not a negative pride which puts itself above others, but a pride coming from awareness: I am! - And it contained the joy of creation. I am because Almighty God created me and therefore I beam.

Then I felt the quality of Germany symbolized by this tree I was at that moment: Strength! Clarity! Humility! Joy!

There I was – following the discussion at congress and remembering this latihan. Later on I went to the microphone and asked those who were present: How should the banner look like by which I as a German feel represented? In this moment an image emerged within me: A tree within a circle, within an Art Nouveau style frame, the roots in old German scripture and eagles were flying in its crown. I was not alone with this image. Mariam had painted a similar image into her notebook which she showed after I had told her about my receiving. By the way Art Nouveau is an art movement that originated in Germany!

When I got back home from national congress I immediately made a first attempt to reproduce my image using watercolour on paper. When painting the roots I suddenly started crying. There was no obvious reason. I felt simply touched. I continued painting and did not think about it but let it flow in the true sense of the word. Next day I painted a second picture, and a third picture, and each time I felt deeply touched when I was painting the roots of the tree. But each time the tree looked different – an oak, a lime, a fantasy tree. The birds changed their appearance too: eagles, pigeons, singing birds. “Which one is it then?” I asked myself. "And anyway, is it important at all which kind of tree or bird I choose”?

So I got up and tested: What is the significance on the effect of Subud Germany’s banner if the tree is an oak? .... a lime?..... and a fantasy tree? The oak was definitely the tree that had shown itself in my first latihan in Germany as described earlier... Then I continued my testing: What is the significance of the eagle on the effect of the banner for Subud Germany? That felt very strong as well! Well then, so far that was clear. But, of course, I did not have a mandate from the brotherhood to create a banner. In fact by the end of our national congress we had not come to any conclusion concerning the banner at all but were left with a big question mark.

A banner is a flag — a flag comprising a declaration under which a people or a community gather because they can identify with it. I found it a pity that as a group we did not have sufficient time before world congress to go through this process with a second design. Maybe other painters in Subud Germany would have loved to present their designs as well and then together we could have chosen the one which felt right. I mean I merely felt I was being a channel for an image that did not belong to me. I was simply missing a forum...

Shortly afterwards all the people who were interested in working on the proposal for hosting next world congress in Germany met in Bonn. I took all of the paintings I had produced so far in this process to that meeting and showed them to the team and even sent them round per email to those who were not present asking which was the most appealing to them. The very first picture was the most popular one. But it was not distinct enough for a banner. It had to become more striking. The consensus was that I should go ahead with it. So I continued my production of further drafts that brought more clarity to my picture.

Someone came up with the idea to have the picture printed as one of our Subud brothers runs a company (Erler & Pless) printing such banners. We asked Simon Pless who was not only willing to print the banner for Subud Germany, but he was happy to sponsor it! That was great! It meant that in my effort I had free choice with respect to working material. I liked watercolours but I preferred oils and therefore produced another picture in oil on a 40cm x 60cm canvas. This triggered a new process in my painting effort because oils respond differently. I found very disparate colours and created a couple of pictures showing diverging expressions. In the end I chose colours similar to the ones used in Art Nouveau.

The next challenge was taking a photograph which could be used for printing as our camera was not very good at detecting hues of yellow and green. This caused an initial alienation effect of the original painting. The second time it happened with the printing. In the end, the colours of the final printed version felt too gaudy. The colours of the original painting wer softer. But this is how it is. This was the version we took to World Congress.

Maybe some of you were wondering why our banner could not be boughtat the auction during world congress. We did not participate in that event simply because it did not feel right to us to give our banner away at that time. We took it back home in order to present it to all of our members. The banner is now on a tour through Gemany and will vistit each of our 18 groups with a diary for the story it will experience.




Germany getting prepared for the World Congress in Puebla

by Ismanah Schulze-Vorberg

This is what happened at our National Congress of Subud Germany:

Artist Arifah Gebhardt worked on a banner for Germany to take to Puebla (top left). She brought this banner to our national congress to get the approval of Subud Germany members. We left the banner hanging five days throughout our congress. Many discussions — also very controversial — arose and took place.

Older members expressed their despair of seeing this “old” symbol which reminded them of Nazi Germany and the Second World War. They said “we never ever want to be perceived as a strong and overwhelming country. This banner cannot go to Puebla, this is not what we are like now”.

On our last congress day we had an almost two hour dialogue — even though it was in public and with more than 40-50 members I wouldn’t call it a discussion. In a most wonderful and harmonious way each had the possibility to express their feelings and view on the banner, on German history and heritage. It was especially moving having Varda and Lavan from Israel as visitors and also participants in this dialogue.

The Allemania banner (bottom left) created by Rusydah Zeisel (story above) came out of this process. The Allemania banner is the banner we took to congress.

For me personally, this "Banner" process is an extraordinary or exemplary example for what SICA really is about: an artwort arises from an inner feeling or process. Being exposed to a group, to the public a new process of dialogue and interaction among the viewers starts. It's a process that reminds me of Joseph Beuys’ concept of a social sculpture and the aim of art:

Social Sculpture illustrates the idea of art's potential to transform society. As an artwork it includes human activity and dialogue that strives to structure and shape society or the environment. The "sculpture“ that takes shape as a social interaction and dialogue within a society is the final, real artwork

Works of art have the ability to lead us to our inner true human culture, they also help the shared true culture of a country to be unveiled and developed.

So this process at the congress was the next step we “had to take” as a country, as Subud Germany — after the Zone4 gathering 2013 in Wolfsburg with the SICA Zone4Peace evening in the Planetarium and the most moving and blessed afternoon of all Zone4 members visiting the Subud house in Wolfsburg.   It was this process that happened while making our banner that led us to really explore who we are.  That exploration is what made us feel we should offer to host the next world congress.