Ruperto Jay Matamoros(San Luis, Santiga de Cuba, 1912 - Havana, 2008)

It may seem strange, even inappropriate, to include Ruperto Jay Matamoros in a show devoted to contemporary Afro-Cuban art. Perhaps the reason for such a decision is that Matamoros belongs to the Afro-Cuban world, since he was a black artist. However, is it possible to consider Matamoros a contemporary artist? Is this not a chronological or generational, as well as a stylistic transgression? Matamoros began to paint in 1937; he was active as an artist for 70 years and died in 2008 when he was 96 years old.

Flores de la tierra (Flowers from the earth)

Flores de la Tierra, 1994, is a peculiar compilation of proverbs and popular sayings about which Matamoros had already made a series of small-format paintings that he gathered in this painting in a single spike of rice. The grain of rice seems to allude to the synthesis or minimal place in which information may be stored. In this case, all the proverbs are related to the eyes and vision: "an eye for an eye"; “the master's eye makes the horse fat"; "the apple of my eye" (literally in Spanish “the girl of my eye”, "water spring" (literally in Spanish “water eye”); "at first glance" (literally in Spanish “at the flower of a glance,”), etc. In the traditional African system of knowledge, as inherited in Cuba, the summarized and metaphoric presentation of messages is very common, with proverbs and sayings occupying an important place. In the Yoruba divination systems practiced in Cuba, both Ifá and Santería or Regla de Ocha, as well as in the religion of Palo Monte, proverbs are widely used. Although many popular proverbs and sayings used by Jay Matamoros stem from rural culture and not from Afro-Cuban religious contexts, his painting may be considered a celebration of our oral and poetic tradition, rich in symbols, to which many Africans and their descendants made great contributions. One way or another, his language is full of small symbolisms. The proximity of the sickle to the foot of the spike, for example, seems to clarify in a codified language that he is referring to gathering a crop of proverbs. Moreover, in both paintings, the flamboyant is present like in many of the artist’s works; Matamoros always identified himself with the Royal Poinciana tree.

Year: 1994
Technique: Oil on canvas
Size: 71 x 85 cm

Theme: Religion Nature Africa