Santiago Rodríguez(Havana, 1955)

When Santiago Rodríguez Olazábal entered the artistic scene in the mid-1980s, the knowledge of Ifá began gradually to move beyond the esoteric domain, where it had remained under the sole control of the babalawos from way back, and started to circulate within the more liberal artistic circles. The knowledge of Ifá became the subject of public exhibits and art criticism being reproduced in catalogues and magazines, thereby becoming part of the art market. Something similar happened with Santería, Palo Monte and Abakuá.


According to Santiago Rodríguez Olazábal, the work Oro Baba refers to the close relationship between two secret societies of African origin, one of them female: the society of Iyamí Oshoronga, (which for all we know, never became established in Cuba) and the male society Oro (with a deity known in Cuba as Orun and not established as a society either). Both deities and their worshippers were entrusted with the surveillance and punishment of those who broke away from taboos or did not obey tradition, or were involved in immoral actions that endangered the stability of the community, especially unscrupulous babalawos. In the painting, the female secret society is represented by the birds, since Iyamí Oshoronga is also known as the lady of the birds, through which she sends her sorceries, and the Oro society is represented by the male figures, the fish and the shrouded body. Beyond this brief description, perhaps Santiago is making an ethical reflection on the importance of doing things the right way, not only in the Ifá environment, where many babalawos use their religious knowledge in a commercial way instead of helping the community to understand and solve its problems, but also as a stern warning to our society as a whole.

Year: 2002
Technique: Acrylic, collage, horsetail and fish skull on canvas
Size: 200 x 180 cm

Theme: gender migration religion