Rubén Rodríguez Martínez(Cárdenas, Matanzas, 1959)

It is true that many Cuban artists have openly expressed in their works elements that were part of important religious secrets; likewise, ethnography has recorded and described a great number of these details. But what decision should be taken when an artist such as Rubén Rodríguez has integrated Santeria and Ifa elements in a large part of his work, in such a voluntarily discreet way that those links are hardly verifiable? Rubén Rodríguez does not speak much about his works. And much less of the relationships of his works to religious events, objects and symbols.

Cortar los paños (Cutting the cloths)

This work has as a substratum or initial motivation an important ritual event of Ifá called paraldo or oparaldo, in which three rectangular pieces of white, red and black cloth are used on which certain odus or Ifá signs are painted. The aim of this small ceremony is to keep the presence of death or of a dead spirit away from a person. An animal (chicken, rooster, dove or guinea fowl) is sacrificed by a babalawo behind the back of the person involved. These three colours are basic in the religion of Ifá, since they represent or possess the three types or primordial energy or aché present in the animal, vegetable and mineral kingdom, and allow the making and fulfilment of all things . In this work, the cloths mentioned in the title have been substituted, as is common in Rubén Rodríguez’s work, by human bodies. His substitutions are done almost exclusively using the human figure, male and female. For white, he uses the figure of a woman whose breasts seem to be dripping maternal milk, maybe as a reference to the purity associated with the mother, who is the origin of the whole human species. For red, he uses a sexually aroused male figure, with an erect phallus, to represent activity, passion and blood. And for black, again a female figure, but this time bent over on herself, hunched, gloomy, of funereal aspect, like death (ikú) itself or the dark forces of the invisible world, of the world beyond (of orun). In spite of its uncomplicated appearance, this work not only synthesizes, in an odd manner, the ceremony of the oparaldo, but the contents of all that exists from the perspective of the Yoruba mystic way of thinking.

Year: 2005
Technique: Oil, charcoal on Guarro heavy paper
Size: 70 x 100 cm

Theme: gender ritual