Raven Foundation Tenth Anniversary Contest Winners

Congratulations to the Raven 10 Contest Winners!

As part of the observance of our 10th Anniversary the Raven Foundation partnered with the Colloquium on Violence and Religion (COV&R) to sponsor a Contest for undergraduates. Professors participated by assigning their students to create artistic expressions of mimetic theory as it applies to their field of study.

Students were asked to respond artistically to this observation from René Girard, the founder of mimetic theory studies: “We are ready to deconstruct anything except the idea that we are self-directed and that the persecutors are always the others.” (Evolution and Conversion, 11) Submissions were judged on their depth of knowledge of mimetic theory as well as their skill and artistry in their chosen medium.

The Raven Foundation is pleased to announce the winners of the Raven 10 Contest:

The first place winner is Camaryn Mie Yokota, student of Jeremiah Alberg at International Christian University in Mikata, Japan, for her stop action video. The two runners up are Sarah Naoko Toyotoshi, student of Jeremiah Alberg also at International Christian University, for her painting, “Peaceful View” and Olivia Wieseler, student of Matthew Packer at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa for her poem, “Mimetic Theory at Walmart on Black Friday.”

The first place winner receives a cash award of $1,000. The second and third place award is $500 and all three winning projects are featured here. In addition, the three winners receive a letter of commendation from the Raven Foundation and COV&R acknowledging their achievement.

First Place – Camaryn Mie Yokota


“Peaceful View” by Sarah Naoko Toyotoshi

Artist Statement

The image I chose to portray was one of an angry crowd, similar to the many crucial mob occurrences that occur in myths as well as history, that prove that humanity remains the same mimetic being throughout the ages. Beginning from the left we have the biblical scenario of stoning, then the crowd transforms into Puritans during the witch hunts in New England, and finally, the mob turns into modern day riots, specifically the hate-filled rallies from the Trump campaigns – all portrayals of collective violence. However, the most important aspect of the painting to note is from who the point of view is from. As I learned throughout my Introduction to Christianity class, Jesus Christ was self-aware of human’s mimetic tendencies. In addition, Christ was sacrificed for the sake of humanity, similar to every other instance of scapegoating. The victim, although initially hated, is sacred and also necessary to sacrifice as it brings to the community. The painting is from the point of view of Jesus Christ on the cross. By making Jesus every victim in every case of scapegoating, I wish to make the point that all scapegoating is one and the same. Whether the victims are sacrificed because they are a witches, Muslims, Mexicans, or other minorities, they are at fault for whatever crisis has occurred, and while the crowd is hateful and seemingly chaotic, the sacrifice is bringing order and relative peace. In my opinion, Jesus continues to be sacrificed for humanity over and over again. He continues to bear our sins as we relentlessly persecute.

“Mimetic Theory at Walmart on Black Friday” by Olivia Wiesleler

I. Mimetic Desire
We walked into Walmart—My mother, sister and I—
To find a bike for my 11-year-old brother
In store, on sale, in time for Christmas.
But through the chaotic mess,
The pushing and shoving and body odor and claustrophobia,
My sister saw the teddy bears.
Giant bears, as big as my brother,
Soft bears, as fluffy as cottonwood seed,
Loved bears, as cherished as a newfound faith.
Bears carried by the old and the young,
By the short and the tall,
Bears carried by those frantic moms
With their hair flying this way and that
And wild looks on their faces
As they fight their way to get to the good sales
Like a tiger hunting its prey.
Or by those sleeping dads
That look like they just rolled out of bed
Dragging their feet as their mouths stretch
Into the openings of dark caverns.
Bears carried by those guys strutting
In their dark shades and leather jackets,
Who know they’ll be strangled if they
Don’t buy one for their girls.
And carried by those children
With eyes wider than the Mighty Mo,
but small enough to drown
In the big bear’s fluffy fur.
I want one! my sister shouts.
But why? I wonder, yet still
We make our way—
My mother, sister, and I—
To the teddy bear shelf
Where the last giant, soft bear
Sits, waiting to be loved.

II. Mimetic Crisis
My sister runs
To get the last bear,
But as she reaches for his fuzzy paw,
Two adult men snatch it,
One dark, young, and handsome,
Dressed up in a suit and tie
Looking as if he would be ready
To give a formal speech at any moment.
The other old, bald, and round
With an ugly Christmas sweater,
One of those who starts Christmas the day
Thanksgiving ends.
This bear is mine! the first man shouts.
I saw it first! replies the second.
I need it for my girlfriend, the first insists.
My daughter is more important, counters the second.
But my girlfriend will slap me!
My daughter will cry!
My girlfriend will dump me!
My daughter might die!
And they fought and fought,
All while Teddy was pulled
In opposite directions
Until we heard that awful sound
Of a seam stretched too thin
And saw the curly white clouds
Float to the floor.
And Teddy was no longer Teddy
But ripped, mangled, and torn.

III. Scapegoat
All this time we—
My mother, sister, and I—
Had become part of a larger crowd,
Gathered around to watch in horror
The stuffing drifting like snow
Around these two adult men.
The first man looked at the second
And he looked to the first,
And they realized
The mess they had made.
Then a store manager,
With his blue vest and nerdy glasses
Looking as though he
Would rather be anywhere
But here, arrived
On the scene and blandly asked,
What is the issue, here?
The first man looked at the second
And he looked to the first.
This bear is worthless!
Do you see this slash?
You should be ashamed,
To sell such trash!
Then these two gentlemen proceeded
To throw their two halves of the bear,
To the floor and went
On their way, leaving the manager
To clean up Teddy.
The last giant bear, as big as my brother,
The last soft bear, as fluffy as cotton candy,
The last loved bear, but this one was not.

IV. Scapegoat in Religion
You see this giant bear,
This unloved Teddy,
Is not so different
From someone else
You may know. There was
Someone else who came
Into this world
To proclaim joy, peace, and love.
People liked him, adored
Him, followed him.
But for every good deed he
Did, more hatred
For this man arose, and finally
They condemned him.
Just as this Teddy
Was to bring joy for many girls and boys
And was instead destroyed and cast out,
This man, who came to bring light
to the world of darkness,
Was punished for his words,
Punished for his actions,
And was crucified,
His body bleeding, mangled, and torn.
Artist Statement
Poetry has a way of formulating thoughts in which no other medium can. One can use concrete description to imply abstract meaning. The beauty of language is that one can create entirely new meanings out of the simplest and most ordinary words. These are aspects of poetry I came to understand more fully during the process of writing this poem. I originally wanted to write a poem on Mimetic Theory because I thought it would be the best way to provoke thought about this topic. After I had written this poem, it seemed to be much more that. I created a story, a message, that was important to me and my beliefs. I created it out of a philosophical theory that I didn’t really know much about. But the more I explored this theory through this artistic medium, the more I learned about my personal beliefs and thoughts and how I can relate them to this philosophy. This piece challenged me to think in a different way and made me come to terms with how I viewed myself