The art of mourning

On the evening of Wednesday, March 31, under the vaulted, cavernous ceiling of the University of Chicago’s Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, attendees to “Interreligious Ceremony: Killed, Remembered,” a service for victims of gun violence, were invited to sit in a small, intimate circle of folding chairs, with images and remembrances of murdered individuals placed in the center. Elizabeth Davenport, Dean of Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, led a ceremony that included traditional Native American blessings, a reading from the Qur’an, Buddhist reflections, and a poem adapted from Jewish prayer. Later three individuals shared remembrances of loved ones lost to gun violence, including Symon Ogeto, who spoke about his friend and colleague Amadou Cisse, the University of Chicago chemistry doctoral student who was shot and killed on November 19, 2007. Particularly moving was the testimony of Nicole Tuttle, a teacher in the Chicago Public Schools who lost a student to gun violence.

The attendees were mostly older community members, and it was surprisingly small, considering the deadly wave of gun violence in Chicago over the last several weeks. The majority of the students in attendance were members of the international student community and residents of the UofC’s International House, where Amadou Cisse was an active member.

Behind the circle of participants and mourners was an installation piece by artist Eugenia Oglesby titled “Fourteen Women / don’t forget,” commemorating the December 6, 1989 shooting of fourteen female students at a Montreal engineering school by an anti-feminist. The work is made from fragments of bullet-scarred metal and cartridges that Oglesby collected from the California desert, along with media coverage from the incident. In her opening remarks, Elizabeth Davenport explained the motivation behind holding this service alongside Oglesby’s exhibition, remarking, “Art demands that we remember…and that we act.”