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Loquebantur variis linguis

January 11, 2011

by Teju Cole

Thomas Tallis (1505-1585) wrote his setting of “Loquebantur variis linguis” according to the account of the Day of Pentecost given in the second chapter of the Book of Acts. When the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles, they began to “speak with other tongues, as the spirit gave them utterance.”

I have drawn five self-portraits on the theme, imagining a choir composed of myself in multiplicate. But I wish to evoke, too, my experience of Pentecostal Christianity, which included speaking in tongues. The preaching I received, and which I passed on to others, was that the purpose of these untranslated and mystical utterances was to sidestep the Devil and to reach God directly.

These drawings were made on the iPhone using the Sketchbook app. I value this technique especially for its immediacy: the artist’s finger serves as the pencil.


Loquebantur 1


Loquebantur 2


Loquebantur 3


Loquebantur 4


Loquebantur 5


Teju Cole (website) is a Nigerian-American novelist, photographer, and historian of art. He is the author of Open City, which will be published by Random House in February 2011.

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  1. January 11, 2011 at 4:33 pm

    A fascinating combination of old-world style religion and new technology with these drawings on the iPhone, using our oldest tool ever, the finger! Great sketches!

  2. Alex Cigale
    January 11, 2011 at 5:07 pm

    The hand speaks! These reminded me of the mystical tradition of micro-writing or micrography, present as much in illuminated Christian manuscipts as in the Judeo-Muslim traditions; initially that is what I thought these were. The method, combining as it does ancient technique with new technology, is perfect here, in Translation, a living Ghost in the Machine! Ecstasy! Thank you, TC.

  3. January 12, 2011 at 9:04 am

    Teju, I love these drawings, the theme you chose, and the perfect medium (“medium” in its other meaning too) for translating them. I wish there were an audio clip of speaking in tongues to go with it.

  4. Alex Cigale
  5. January 12, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    Love these, especially #2 and #4 — I think the foreshortening is, well, loud. Great medium as Natalie says.

  6. January 13, 2011 at 12:23 pm

    Thank you Alex, it is stunning music and a wonderful choir. I also meant that I’d like to have heard Teju speaking in tongues!

  7. January 20, 2011 at 2:56 pm

    If you scroll up and down very fast with these, they come alive like a flickbook!

  1. May 9, 2011 at 3:29 pm
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