|Bast the Light-Bringer / Extra fine watercolor, 22 karat gold, Indian star ruby, fire opals & Austrian crystals by master iconographer Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa|
The work I do as an iconographer may appear at first glance to be that of creating pretty pictures. People who compliment or discuss my work will often use the words "Egyptian artwork" or "artwork" to describe my icons; and while I am always grateful to have my sacred endeavors acknowledged in the first place, it is always something of a process for me to kindly differentiate between the terms artwork and icon. In my view, artwork is a decorative image, a painting or picture created primarily for aesthetic considerations, though still carrying deeper personal or expressive associations. An icon is an image illustrating a religious or spiritual subject, an image that is ritually consecrated to take part in the devotional transmission of faith within a sacred tradition. Icons can most certainly be decorative, and are also created to be beautiful, visually appealing. But icons serve a different purpose than pictures whose primary function is to be ornamental, or to serve as an individual artist's personal expression of their life experience.
Icons connect the viewer directly with the Sacred, and, in the case of my Kemetic icons, they serve as repositories for the active power of living gods. The netjeru, the goddesses and gods of ancient Egypt, have always been served through a precise tradition of iconography resident in the cult image, a two or three-dimensional image that has been ritually awakened to contain a portion of the deity's spiritual essence. Such images have become the focal point of temples through the celebration of the daily rituals of the cult, the body of ritual actions and offerings through which the deity's presence remains active in the material world. These traditions are thousands of years old, and serve as a vital component of a living religious practice established in very early times.
My icons are not crafted as decorative objects or pretty "Egyptian artwork". They are not mythology illustrations, nor are they Egyptology art. These panels, created from the finest natural pigments and ornamented with real gold and semi-precious stones, are holy objects made as embodiments of living gods. Their entire purpose is to serve contemporary temple communities in their effort to revive an authentic practice of the Kemetic religion today. This means restoring the ancient rituals and utilizing the traditional cultic texts as much as possible. And central to such activities is the presence of authentic spiritual tools and sacred images for worship.
The original icons I create do not hang on the walls of a modern art gallery. They are not collectibles for the touristy Egyptian art aficionado. I am very proud to say that my icons are commissioned by active temples who have established perpetual ritual programs for the netjeru via the celebration of the daily cult. My icons help religious communities in the current age to revive the traditional rites through which the ancient Egyptians maintained the active presence of the Gods in our world. These are living gods, these netjeru; as much today as three-thousand years ago.
I am deeply grateful when I have the opportunity to see my icons, or reproductions of my icons, being used as devotional objects within an active spiritual community. Thus I was overjoyed when Matt Whealton of the Temple of Ra San Francisco contacted me with pictures from this year's Pantheacon Convention. Hosted by the Kemetic Temple of San Jose, Kemetics from a number of temples gathered at Pantheacon to celebrate a traditional Kemetic ritual honoring the netjeret (Goddess) Bastet/ Bast. I was told by Matt Whealton that prints of two of my Kemetic icons were present during the ritual; my icon of 'Bast the Light-Bringer', and my 'Stela of Ptah Who Hears Prayers'.
HiC Luttmers of the Kemetic Temple of San Jose wrote to me: "...Ptahmassu, we used your Ptah icon to establish a « side chapel » to Ptah where anyone who visited the suite or attended the ritual could sit and write their petitions, pleas and prayers knowing that Ptah would hear them".
Matt Whealton of the Temple of Ra San Francisco writes:
"Ptahmassu's art is special among that being produced in the modern Kemetic arena. He produces the pieces from a true devotional perspective and uses materials and precious ingredients the ancients used in his work. His vision is both individually unique and grounded in the ancient forms both visually and textually. It seems so much of the available devotional Kemetic art and icons 'do not get the glyphs right'. Ptahmassu does. This gives them both emotional and ritual power in my opinion. The piece I own is a version of the Hearing Ear stelae often found in Egyptian contexts. These icons were (and are) attuned to individual devotion, not State Religion, and the choice is an excellent one for modern Kemetic practice. As a devotee for Ptah, I love that I can approach him through this special piece."
I am very grateful to see that the work I do as a sacred artisan of the netjeru is bringing others into contact with the Divine through devotion and offering. These are the gifts of the heart that bring us ever closer to our Gods, Who are always receptive to the outreach of Their devotees in the current era. Far from being figments of the mythology of a defunct culture, the netjeru of ancient Egypt are living gods, living in the here and now. All that is required to reach Them is a pure heart filled with honest intention. It is our desire to find and serve the Gods that calls and awakens Them here in our realm of existence. What better way could there be to do this than by the creation and celebration of beauty.
Photos below taken by Serena Kefira Leclerc & used with kind permission of HiC Luttmers & Matt Whealton
|The Great Goddess Bastet receives offerings in a tradition Kemetic ritual|
|A print of my icon 'Bast the Light-Bringer' graces the festival table|
|HiC Luttmers of the Kemetic Temple of San Jose & Matt Whealton of the Temple of Ra San Francisco kneel before a print of my icon 'Stela of Ptah Who Hears Prayers'|