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Father Angelbert M. Vang SJ from Yaoude, Cameroon was a well-known historian, poet, musician and designer. He wrote a history of Cameroon and promoted African identity. He was deeply interested in inculturation,the process of integrating Christian faith and the culture of the believing people.
"He frequently spoke of Moses as a southern African since Moses grew up in Egypt, which is in Africa, and Egyptian culture is linked to African culture," explained Father Jean Ilboudo SJ, a friend of Fr. Vang and currently assistant for Africa to the Superior General of the Jesuits.
Vang was asked to design stations for the chapel Hekima College, in Nairobi, Kenya, shortly after the chapel was built in 1984-85 at the very beginning of the school for professional theological studies sponsored by the Jesuits of Africa.
Vang was a master of stylized designs done with a limited color palette. According to Fr. Ilboudo, "Red, black, white-- he used to use only three or four colors, and he felt this was something very important. The stations are the most important feature of the chapel, and the Christ has a face that is a mask, an African mask. His eyes are open and Fr. Vang said that this shows the divinity, which was knowing and seeing everything. The eyes of everyone else are closed; they don’t see, they don’t know everything like God. Jesus does, though."
After Vang created the designs for the stations, an artist in Kenya executed them, but surprised the Jesuit by making one change. "Fr. Vang had the lady at the foot of the cross looking up at her son," Ilboudo said. "The artist in Kenya refused to show Mary looking up and made her looking down. When the picture was shown to Fr. Vang, the historian said, 'It is not my design.' The artist explained that in the context of Kenyan culture, a woman would not look at her son’s suffering but would turn away her eyes. So Vang said, 'I agree with you.' And the picture remained as the Kenyan artist drew it."
Ironically, the Jesuit artist entered even more fully into the mystery of Christ’s death when he was assassinated in April 1999 after he had organized a symposium titled, "Moses the African" to which he invited Jews, Muslims and Christians to engage in dialogue.
He was strangled during the night in his home near the city. His body was not discovered until the day after the murder, and the perpetrator remains unknown. Vang did not speak publicly about the political situation in Cameroon, but he did criticize Gnostic movements such as Rosicrucians and Masons that are developing in Africa.
The motive for his murder remains unclear, but the Stations of the Cross at Hekima College remain as a testament to his faith.