José Bedia Valdés(Havana, 1959)

Few Cuban artists have developed a body of work as coherent and original as that of José Bedia. Although he isone of the most outstanding examples in the history of art in Cuba and Latin America, and he has also received international acknowledgement, his true importance has not yet been fully recognized. In his paintings, drawings and installations, José Bedia has not only used a hive of cultural references from Cuba, but also from Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa, focussing on those that western civilization, with its technological vanity and false idea of progress, has considered underdeveloped, backward or pre-modern.

Kindembo Sarabanda Malongo Yaya arriba ntoto

This work by José Bedia is a splendid large-format representation of the main sacred object of the Palo Monte religion, the nganga, which is also known in Cuba by several other names, kindembo, nkisi, nkiso, malongo, prenda (garment), caldero (pot), and fundamento (foundation). It appears here reflected in a kind of X-ray image, with its fundamental ingredients exposed: sticks, hooked sticks, herbs, soil, rooster, dog, male goat, birds, iron tools, chain, machetes, knives and a human skull (called kiyumba or kriyumba), where the nfumbe or dead spirit that manages the functions of this micro-cosmos resides. To the centre, we see the signature or mpemba (that a few call katikampolo or patimpemba) which is its graphic representation. To the left, Bedia has represented ngonda, the moon, and to the right, the stars, nkele or tetemboas that grant spiritual force to this object. The recipient of a Sarabanda garment is a three-legged iron cauldron or kettle surrounded here by several paleros that mboban (speak to it) or sing some of its mambos or prayers, which allows the appearance of the gigantic nfumbe who resides there or of the mpungo or deified energy that presides over it. In this case, Sarabanda is an equivalent of the orisha Oggún of the Yorubas. Although there are many other ngangas (Nkuyu, Nsasi or Siete Rayos, Chola Wengue, Pansua or Coballende, among others) doubtless Sarabanda is one of the most popular and abundant in the Afro-Cuban religion of Palo Monte.

Year: 2009
Technique: Acrylic on canvas
Size: 182 x 464 cm

Theme: religion