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Seattle Art Museum (SAM)
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Influencia del Simbolo (Influence of Symbols)

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Influencia del Simbolo (Influence of Symbols)


José Bedia

Cuban, born 1959

José Bedia’s work reflects profound influences from Indigenous and African cultures in his native Cuba and beyond. A longtime practitioner of Palo Monte—an Afro-Cuban syncretized religion incorporating traditional practices from Kongo, Spiritism, and Spanish Catholicism—Bedia’s appreciation for the African roots of Cuban culture deepened after his service in the International Cultural Brigades during Angola’s civil war. Upon leaving Cuba in 1990, he lived among Native American groups in Mexico before settling in Miami.

Here, Bedia presents a scene on amate, a paper material used by the Aztec people. It depicts two figures, possibly engaged in combat. Spiraling patterns of legs and arms suggest movements reminiscent of the Afro-Cuban martial art juego de maní, akin in origin and technique to Brazil’s capoeira. Beginning as a fighting competition between enslaved Africans, maní incorporates musical and social elements from Palo Monte and is still performed today, primarily as a folkloric dance. The title, written boldly across the top, underscores the endurance of Afro-Caribbean cultural symbols despite colonial efforts to repress them.
Conte crayon on Amate papter
47 x 94 in. (119.4 x 238.8 cm)
Gift of Dennis Braddock in memory of Janice Niemi
Provenance: The artist; [George Adams Gallery, New York]; purchased from gallery by Dennis Braddock and Janice Niemi, Seattle, Washington, February 1999
Now on view at the Seattle Art Museum

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