THE BABYLONIAN SHEPHERD
Background & Inspiration
deliverance versus freedom
This sobering work that can be described as a “sad profile of the naturally incurable wounds of oppression, primarily colonization, slavery and dictatorship,” “The Babylonian Shepherd” describes how the spirit of fear that births, incubates, matures and sponsors every act, form and system of human domination, control and manipulation is also the same spirit that perpetuates the misconception of ‘deliverance’ as freedom.
The highlighted word deliverance is important to note since it is the key in understanding the erroneous concept of freedom that is at the foundation of the harrowing ills of humanity portrayed in this massive work.
As represented by the chains detached from the anchor on the legs of the gravely distressed, disconcerted and discouraged figures being led like sheep to a destination only known by the shepherd, deliverance connotes rescue or liberation from tangible restrictions that were put to keep one in a defined location. It is being set free from the shackles of bondage or a physical state of confinement, subjugation, servitude and slavery.
However, even though the padlock that might have tied a person or people to one place is taken off hence their movement is no longer restricted, which therefore means that they can freely move their legs as alluded to by the long strides being taken by the distressed figures, deliverance does not mean that one now has the ability to define exactly where he wants to go and muster all the resources required to getting there.
In other words, deliverance is not freedom and deliverance does not always lead a person, people, society, nation, country or continent to freedom. In fact, while deliverance is the physical release from the chains of the oppressor, freedom is the release from the spirit of oppression. Essentially, deliverance is an instant act of untying the fetters of oppression, but freedom is a thoughtful, progressive and deliberate act. It is a laborious, persevering and structured process. In his Kingdom Lexicon, Nya’ defines true freedom as follows:
“True Freedom is a clearly defined, detailed and extensively researched step by step, page by page and chapter by chapter process of restoration.”
Nya’ also defines true freedom as a “carefully drafted plan of growth and development with clear strategies, objectives and goals hence it is sustainable, implementable, accountable, traceable and documentable.”
Deliverance is not freedom
In his preparatory sketch for “The Babylonian Shepherd,” Nya’ visually explicates how when any Man has been delivered or set free from any kind of oppression, be it spiritual, physical or mental, he is obviously euphoric, elated and jubilant beyond words. However, that is not freedom. The delivered person is yet to be transformed in the spirit of his mind and to be renewed in his belief system or way of thinking.
Even though he might have physically relocated or changed his location, his position, title, social pedigree, economic status, associations, lifestyle and even his name, his mind is still the same. He still has a bondage mentality or still thinks exactly the way he was programed and conditioned to think by his oppressor.
As alluded to in the preparatory drawings by the gross darkness enveloping the wretched yet euphoric figures celebrating their misconception of deliverance as freedom (see fig 1), and in this painting by the remnants of discarded metal comprising the heads of the figures, his real essence - his mind - is still controlled by the same spirit of fear that inspired his oppressor to enslave, manipulate, colonize and oppress him.
To that end, his behavior, diurnal conversation, posture, habits and itinerary still resembles an oppressed human being as further depicted in the work by the sackcloth garment, ashes and dead branches dressing the figures.
misconception of deliverance as freedom
In his preparatory notes for “The Babylonian Shepherd,” Nya’ explicates how this contemporary world’s humanistic ideology that defines freedom as the absence of physical restrictions and laws that may be deemed as discriminatory, prejudiced or offensive is bound to retain a person, people, race, nation or continent that has a history of slavery or a recent memory of colonization in the Machiavellian hands of their former oppressors.
He further explains how this ideology is responsible for conceiving and sustaining our populous concept of freedom, which he then summarizes as “a license for Man to erroneously think and believe that he can do whatever he believes is right, say whatever he wants to say, and become whatever his flesh desires,” is propagated by the spirit of fear (evil) behind the harrowing ills portrayed in the painting to especially keeping formerly oppressed persons in the claws of this world’s controlling systems.
He also asserts that freedom can never be granted by a former oppressor since whoever gives another human his freedom will essentially always control him. Otherwise stated, and as alluded to in “The Babylonian Shepherd” by the disenfranchised and discombobulated figures being led to a destination they cannot see, Man will only grant freedom to another human if he can control, set and define his desired destiny and has made strategic alliances and recalibrated his systems of control to ascertain that his power, position, authority, influence and affluence will always remain unthreatened, unchallenged and unquestioned.
This is extremely important to note as it implies that a person, society, ethnic group, family or people can be free from physical oppression and subjugation but remain perpetually oppressed by the same system that took off the chains from their legs.
The source of your freedom determines your destination
In fact, as indicated in one of the x-rays of Nya’s celebrated work that also delves into the themes of freedom, deliverance, true leadership and identity, “Heir of Inheritance” through an impressive figure representing a religious Christian whose head and face is covered with charcoal and ashes, a Man delivered from physical oppression is yet to be renewed in his mind and yet to be reprogrammed in his thinking pattern.
Even though he has spiritually changed his address as alluded to in the drawing by the figure’s garment filled with Scriptural references and quotes, his mind is still shrouded in darkness or ignorance. The Man still has a bondage mentality. He still thinks exactly as he used to before he was delivered from physical oppression.
With his economic destiny (represented by the old Roman coins attached to the figure’s garment) still being controlled by the oppressor (even if the oppressor’s seat of government might be oceans away), the delivered Man is still ‘mentally oppressed,’ and hence he is ignorant of the tremendous responsibility and demands imposed by true freedom. To that end, he euphorically sings and dances and abides in the delirium paradise of his new position of perceived freedom while oblivious to the invisible forces oppressing him by controlling his economic destiny (see fig 2).
true definition of deliverance and freedom
The above makes it clear that deliverance from oppression does not always lead Man to freedom. In his Leadership Lexicon, Nya’ describes how the mindset of a delivered person who thinks he is free is like a virus. For example, rather than celebrate those in his community who maximize their potential and achieve greatness, he ridicules them. And rather than collaborating, amalgamating and partnering with others in his society who have strengths in areas where he is weak, he competes with them. And rather than supporting others in his country and region who are close to breaking the barriers set by the oppressor in their respective fields of calling, he sabotages them.
But why does a Man who is delivered yet thinks he is free do this?
This is because the systems of oppression still ruling his mind have convinced him that everyone who looks like him can ever succeed, is not worthy of success and is destined to remain a bottom-feeder, a beggar, a jobber and a slave to the systems established by the oppressor.
Furthermore, because his mind is conditioned to think, see and confess lack, shortages, minimum wage, a pay-check, salary, vacation, title and retirement, when he sees anyone who looks like him truly succeed, the spirit of fear violently seizes him and screams in his mind that the only position of leadership that was available, the sole seat of authority and honor that was available has been taken away thus his dream and hope of success has been jeopardized.
The system of oppression
This is partially alluded to in “The Babylonian Shepherd” through the repeated shapes comprising the heads and torsos of the figures. In essence, by rendering the figures in a single profile, with each figure only seeing the back of the figure in front and the one in front only seeing the back of the master leading them and the mouth of his gun on his shoulder, Nya’s intention is to stress how the mind of a delivered person, people or community will never capture a vision that sees beyond the boundaries set by their oppressor.
By definition, deliverance is only the release of Man from physical oppression. The word deliverance means to rescue, to snatch and drag out of danger in the nick of time. In other words, deliverance is a rescue operation intended to snatch a person, community, people or race out of physical or spiritual danger. Even though the actual act of deliverance is usually instant, it is still a costly intervention that requires skill, stealth, strategy, focus, planning and wisdom.
This is especially so if the people or person that requires to be delivered had gotten so accustomed to the system the spirit of fear deployed to oppress them to the point that he had forgotten his authentic identity and had created for himself an environment that enabled him to temporarily forget that he is oppressed.
In essence, even though the goal of oppression is always the same, the system of oppression the spirit of fear employs to oppress a person, people, society or community differs.
Aside from slavery and colonialism, (the two systems primarily alluded to in “The Babylonian Shepherd,” and represented by the chains and ropes yoking the figures), other effective systems of oppression alluded to in the work through the salvaged steel, sackcloth, text, ashes, charcoal, and cow dung paste used to create the elements in the composition are: witchcraft, religion, corruption, communism, socialism and capitalism.
In fact, as articulated in the artist’s preparatory notes for the painting, “any Man-made system, be it education, religion, judicial, political, economic or science, is subject to be deftly manipulated by the spirit of fear and wily deployed to oppress another human or a distinguished society, tribe, race, ethnicity or community.
While deliverance is only the release of Man from physical oppression, freedom is the release of Man from the spirit of oppression.
Freedom is intrinsically bound to the heart of every human because freedom is what the spirit specie of Man lost when his spirit was disconnected from the Spirit of his Creator and manufacturer, God. This, therefore, implies that freedom is what every Man is inherently searching and longing for in everything he does. In another x-ray for his work, “Heir of Inheritance,” Nya’ portrays freedom as a musician who has been liberated from the limitations of this world’s systems by discovering his true identity, heritage, potential, purpose and assignment in his Creator’s manual and thus granted the supernatural ability to master his craft, become an authority in his field and diligently serve his gift to the entire race of Mankind.
What is telling about the x-ray is that the gender, nationality, ethnicity, economic status and social background of the figure remains a mystery, perhaps an allusion to how true freedom is not a respecter of race, ethnicity or pedigree, but it is discovered through reconnecting to the Spirit and source of life, God (see fig 3).
Deliverance versus oppression
the source of true freedom
Freedom is not synonymous with deliverance, independence and sovereignty. Neither is freedom the entitlement to do as one pleases, the discharge from external controls, the vacation from responsibility or the dearth of laws, regulations and restrictions. As a matter of fact, the mind-boggling corruption, mismanagement of the economy, love of pleasure without work, politics without principles, worship without sacrifice, science without humanity, lack of accountability and other maladies prevalent in former colonized nations and communities where people with a history of oppression dwell can be attributed to believing and adopting this world’s misconception of deliverance for freedom.
As represented by the Holy Scriptures constituting the torso of one of the 3 figures in the primary preparatory drawing for “The Babylonian Shepherd,” freedom is an attribute, concept, character and distinctive quality of God. The implanted text in red, from which the light empowering the torso is emanating makes it clear that freedom cannot be given by another human being, an earthly government, former colonizer or oppressor.
Instead, freedom is discovered through personal revelation granted by the source and giver of life - the Spirit of God dwelling in the Kingdom of God residing in every Man who has been reconnected to the source of true freedom by acknowledging that Jesus is the Lord of his life and his savior from the spirit of bondage and fear Mankind granted the permission to rule him when we all declared independence from our Creator through the forefather of all humanity, Adam.
In essence, the 3 torsos represent the tripartite composition of Man; his spirit, soul and body. And while the two torsos void of light represents his flesh (body) and his intellect, will and emotions (soul), it is the leading torso abounding with light emanating from The Word in red letters that allude to the source of true freedom.
By making The Word of God who became flesh (Jesus) the foundation and source of light in this preparatory drawing for “The Babylonian Shepherd,” Nya’s intention is to stress that freedom means that Man was not created and sent to earth to be under the control of Man-made rules, but rather, to be internally governed by the Spirit of the perfect law of His granter of breath and source of his identity, heritage, potential, purpose and assignment, God.
Therefore, when any Man is filled with The Word of Life (who is the source of his identity and the Spirit of true freedom), he is liberated from this world’s systems of control and released into his leadership position where he is destined to change the world with the authority, power and command of God’s Spirit government residing in him.
Select Exhibitions: 10th. Anniversary Black Fine Arts Show, New York, 2007