BELKIS AYÓN (1967-1999)
La Sentencia
signed and dated 'Belkis Ayón Manso, 1993' (lower right); titled 'La Sentencia' (lower center); numbered '4/6' (lower left)
collograph on paper
36 x 2614 in. (91 x 67 cm.)
Executed in 1993. This work is number four from an edition of six.
Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner, 1994
J. Veigas and K. Ayón, Nkame: Belkis An, Madrid, 2010, p. 198, no. 93.07 (illustrated).
Behind the veil of a myth / Tras el velo de un mito: Belkis Ayón, exh. cat., Houston, The Station Museum of Contemporary Art, 2018, pp. 96 and 99 (illustrated).
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Lot Essay

Executed in 1933, the present works by Cuban printmaker, Belkis Ayon, entitled La Sentencia perfectly exemplify the mysterious monochromic prints with a focus on the Afro-Cuban religious fraternity of Abakua that the artist is so well known for. A secret all-male Afro-Cuban society allegedyly brought to Cuba in the 19th century by slaves from Nigeria, Abakua was a boundless source of inspiration for Ayon. Before her suicide in 1999 at the age of 32, the artist focused frequently on the princess Sikan who was the only woman in Abakua lore. The princess was put to death for revealing the religions secrets to her husband who happened to be a prince in an enemy nation.

Ayon felt a deep connection to Sikan and acted as an alter ego for her which created a twinned identity within her prints. In the year leading up to her death, Ayon was quoted to say, “These [works] are the things I have inside that I toss out because there are burdens with which you cannot live or drag along, ...Perhaps that is what my work is about — that after so many years, I realize the disquiet.” Knowing the connection the artist felt with her subject, the imagery in the present representations of Sikan become all the more powerful. The first example shows Sikan being attacked by snakes and wounded by sharp branches protruding into her skin, much like that of the arrows in Saint Sebastian. Ayon described the princess being constantly threatened which is illuminated here in the barrage of snakes.

The second work shows Sikan carrying a goat which is used to revive her after the Abukua rituals are performed. The sacrifice of the goat revives the princess and also enlivens the voice of the fish. The cycle of life and death expressed here and in the sacred practices of the group is no meant to be indicative of a cult of death, but instead one of fertility and the importance of Sikan within the structure of the society. Both works, though simple in color scheme and figuration, flawlessly represent and inspiration of Bilkis Ayon’s short artistic career and life.

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