Belkis Ayon

Belkis Ayon (b. Havana, 1967)

Belkis Ayon graduated from the Instituto Superior de Arte in Havana, where she studied engraving and later became a professor of graphics. Her prints-typically made using a collage-like printing technique known as collography-is consistently bound up with an investigation of the Abukuá Secret Society, an all-male organization of Afrocuban origin, founded in Cuba in the 1830s. Ayon explains, "I aspire above all to give my vision, my points of view as observer, presenting in a synthesized form the aesthetic, plastic, and poetic aspects I discovered in Abakuá, persistently relating them to the nature of man, with vivid personalities, with feelings which sometimes grip us, feelings we don't know how to define, with these fugitive emotions…with the spiritual." Not only is Ayon interested in relating the myths and rituals of the Abakuá to larger themes and issues, she also intends to emphasize her role in uncovering the mysteries of this closely guarded secret society. A recurring character in her work is Sikán, a woman who discovered the secrets of Abukuá and was sacrificed by the men of the society in order to prevent the dissemination of the secrets. In Ayon's prints, the sacrificed victim becomes an active participant, and one cannot help but see the artist in the figure of Sikán. Ayon's work has been exhibited internationally since 1988, and is included in collections worldwide. On September 11, 1999, the artist perished at her own hands.

close window