José Bedia and Belkis Ayón

The Afro-Cuban Experience in Art from the Museum of Latin American Art

Untitled (1996) by Belkis AyónMuseum of Latin American Art

Belkis Ayón


Belkis Ayon’s mysterious images are based upon the mythology of the Afro-Cuban all-male secret society the Abakuá.

The artist discovered the myths of the Abakuás through the writings of Lydia Cabrera and Enrique Sosa while studying at the San Alejandro art school in Havana. Originating in Calabar, Nigeria, the Abakuá is one of four religious-cultural groups of African origin that have been present in Cuba since colonial times.

A recurring character in the work of Ayón, and her alter-ego at the same time, is Sikán, a princess who, according to a founding myth, revealed the secret of the Abukuá and was sacrificed by the men of the society.

Ayón, together with Sandra Ramos, Ibrahim Miranda and Abel Barroso, was one of the most important artists working with graphic art in Cuba during the 1990s. She worked in collography, a printing process in which the texture of different materials are transferred onto the paper.

Ayón was able to combine surprisingly simple forms and tonal values with an abundance of textures to create images haunting in their quiet beauty.

Nahual de la sierra (1997) by José BediaMuseum of Latin American Art

José Bedia

1959 - 

Since the 1970s, José Bedia’s work has focused on the Amerindian and Afro-Cuban religions of Santería and Palo Monte, referencing their spiritual practices and the relationship of man to nature and animals. The result is a body of work that is rich in symbolism and mythology.

His images and inspiration are gathered from his experiences in his native Cuba, Mexico and the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota. As a result, his art is genuine in content, and pays respect to the cultures and practices it represents.

Oyá en lo suyo (1998) by José BediaMuseum of Latin American Art

Bedia is a priest of Palo Monte, and his practice has helped him realize that all indigenous cultures are more often linked by similarities than divided by differences.

Oyá en lo suyo/ Oyá in his Own World, 1998, exemplifies the synthesis of sources and trademark style present in Bedia’s work.

In Yoruba and Palo Monte mythologies, Oyá is the warrior-spirit of the wind, lightning, fertility, fire and magic. She creates hurricanes and tornadoes, guards the underworld and is the spirit of change, chaos and transition.

In this etching, Oyá is “doing her work” by blowing wind to a mountain village, where we can see a house and an electric post having the effect of being blown away by her wind.

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