36 comments on finds A conversation with Otelo M. Fabião

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As a result of Otelo M. Fabião’s collaboration with lonelyfingers and with the contribution of Clages, Cologne has been published 36 comments on finds, an extensive conversation between Otelo M. Fabião, Nuno Faria, James G. Campbell, Diango Hernández, Laetitia Laguzet, Anne Pöhlmann and Timotheus Vermeulen. You can read here the entire conversation here.

23 Comments

  1. Dear Tim, please understand in what context I was referring to consolation – I can say today that one of the motivations to investigate the act of drawing with the regularity I do is that of consolation. I do not consider drawing my whole work but a fraction of it, a segment. Even if I say fraction or segment, in reality it is more of an irrigating system. Imagine a circulatory system, and how, even if not a vital organ representative, it allows irrigation to the whole organism, to my whole art making organism; thus representing the undercurrent of vitality, and in that, in that feminine act, in that crochet I seek solace, in that filigree, in that transcendence that drawing allows and offers, consolation.

    Please regard it as an ancient discovery – regularity means I have used many hours for drawing since 2003. There is no ultimate objective to my drawing (it gets dropped in boxes, protected from humidity, in metal containers, double locked)… so, rather than an artistic gesture, somehow it functions as a sort of mechanism, but it is separated, like a secret. My investigation and practice in psychogeography, photographic street documentation and the collection and recollection of debris, trash, waste, discard and subsequent composites, combinations and assemblages is another matter altogether. Drawing is a sacred space that unfolds itself and allows possibility – a sort of occidental world meditative practice?

    “Where do you position yourself here? Would it be fair to say that you seek to restore the semblance of balance whilst acknowledging that balance is illusory – precisely by using these discarded, forgotten objects, characters in search of a story, fragments longing to be whole? Or is that a mistaken assessment?”

    Yes all those observations seem plausible and rising from a trained eye. All I seek to parallel consolation with is with a feeling of sheltering. If it is consolation at all that I find in the act of drawing then it can be a feeling associated with being internal, timid, sensitive, feminine. The other part of my work can be seen as outer, brave, firm, masculine.
    This whole thing I venture myself into, this thing of being an artist, the nature of it, paradoxical, of extreme discomfort at times … the whole cake, the whole thing, can be seen ultimately as Sisyphean, thus sort of futile, full of contradictions, full of trial and errors. I underline that the total idea of this action, this venturing, this seeking for balance in the illusory line, apart from the courage (from the Latin ‘cor’) and the bluntness one needs, has to be expressed in the form of a declaration – of it being the utmost useless activity.

  2. In order to answer your question we would need to have a definition of disconnected thinking. But we don’t have a specific one and at the moment we think it is rather important not to have it. But anyway here we are writing down a single point about disconnected thinking that contains in itself lots of our thoughts: disconnected thinking expresses the artist’s will of operating outside the limits of art history. Ideally creating is only connected with non-historical content. Therefore created objects would not be understood as a linear continuation. They would be seen as isolated matters. In this case an artwork can only be the result of the individual’s own life events and circumstances.

  3. Merci Laetitia for your participation and insight! I don’t know if it came as a surprise, I have the impression that I have told you things were adapted, meaning the other works, about which you wrote “Embaumer des rebuts”, are not being shown. I apologize, but all is good anyhow. Working from square 1 seems to fit better then to agglomerate processes even if similar. In a way it made more sense to create a total new set of works. If we look at a small simple concept, that we all are somehow force-fed since childhood: cabeça, tronco e membros (head, trunk and limbs); standing for beginning, middle and end, a way to do things so we can be better understood in the frame of normality, not to throw people in despair and desperation. Those are the basins of how we have to structure ourselves in order to have flux, walk in line, make sense, create rapport, and use a uniform accordingly.

    I understand pointing out of this modus as a metaphor for acknowledge-ment. To acknowledge is a kind of patchwork, of assemblage, of sediment. If we look at these objects, they are evident of a former relationship to the world that is now veiled. The works are neither initiated nor finalized by me. They are in a state of indeterminacy. As if waiting. The fruits, neither rotten nor fresh, in this threshold, neither out nor in, beyond classification, thus destroying concepts and forcing us to relearn and question our place, our sight, our relations. Walter Benjamin was fascinated with Les Arcades, a place that does not exist, the original non-place. That is because it is fascinating to be in a passage, which does belong neither out nor in. It takes one from rue X to rue Y.

    Threshold; in it, descriptions do not adhere. Relevant to highlight is the fact that there is a distinction between doing work exempt and doing work that is on its way to be public. And this group of works were done to fulfil a responsibility. It is rather a new format to me. Usually I make things and put them in boxes, mostly drawings, but paintings and sculptures too. I make them and they stay, getting mouldy. This new format of producing things is a rather recent thing. I am still trying to figure out if this functions really as I am saying it is. Bas Jan Ader could develop a body of work based on the themes of falling/gravity and disappearance. I can familiarize, and what can I say more then say, say, say? And doubting what I say by questioning it over and over, observing it from different angles, perceiving it through the eyes of others, realizing that the artist is no longer working in isolation as in the romanticized version, but is an agent of conglomeration and collaboration instead. The work of art today is held by the curator, the museologist, the restorer, the transporter, dissected by the theorist, monitored by the guard, scanned by the critic, hammered by the auctioneer, etc.

    As an unofficial I can only always be in doubt on and of the veracity of my modus, in doubt if at all being authentic. Always in doubt, always in doubt, always in doubt.

    @lonelyfingers
Thanks for your sincere answer. I was struck with wonder when my friend Kate told me about the word sincere:

    http://ancienthistory.about.com/od/etymology/f/Sincere.htm


    Now it is my turn to pose a question. How relevant is it for you, this group of works, from the standpoint of disconnected thinking in contemporary art?

  4. Yes, you do deserve a sincere reply. All boundaries are blurred and definitions today sound weird, we don’t know with certainty what’s real anymore. The “non-sense” talking/writing/making of many artists actually gets more meaningful day after day.

  5. So do you think I am an artist charlatan, a fake? I have carried this vitality but I can’t say this isn’t all bullshit. What do you think? When I frontally ask the question inside the huge living room – do I deserve a sincere reply?

  6. What I have to say is that somehow there is a finitude to the voice of the artist – after that only critical thinking and speculation, so the work is delivered, and terrible art as been delivered, bad art became good art, low became high and vice versa. When I try to open the space for the work to be present in itself it is in order to test if it is dependent on the artist or on the observer… or on the dialogue it provokes. Propositions fail to a certain extent and the performative act or non-ordinary reality is yet to be fully understood, but I agree with you. Art is certainly above belief systems. And sometimes art does not exist in physicality. It is interesting to observe some video art to “get” it. We can go on and on, and that is the function of art – to be a mechanism of producing thought. Having said that I could easily hire someone that could do the job for me, as an extension of myself, or an assistant to paint my dots or press my buttons, there is this complexity, of Marcel being R. Mutt and Banksy maybe being a collective from Bristol.
    You know, there is much “art”, many ways, and no one better then you, from within the scene, that knows it. I am sorry if it sounds opposing. I actually don’t think one can get to the core of things, we only can get drunk on it, simply because both languages can only support meaning so far. It gets to a point words fall short of meaning. Then there is only the observer and the responsibility of interpretation.

  7. One more thing: We are in the eye of a storm, in crisis, as Otelo says. One surely could see your pieces after the storm, at the moment when one tries to rebuild the world and has to remember what the past was, how it worked.

  8. From drawings to sculptures, I always feel something, those missing parts from books, objects, allowing to relearn and destroy concepts. As a book forever closed with its secrets, its stories. By hiding, using parts, your work is a kind of metaphor for acknowledgement. In a society, a time of excesses, those pieces answer ”how to remember?”, “how to think?”

    Being is not enough anymore. As an errant psychogeographer, your work could lead to a place where all memories are alive. In this place, missing parts are guessed thanks to the fact they are not there.

  9. We believe simulation doesn’t exist within the perimeters of art, even when an artist would be simulating let’s say “something”, it would definitely mean something else and at the end it would be perceived as a totally different thing. The meaningfulness of an artistic intervention is way bigger than what the actual object is.

  10. I have always planted myself in places of danger, of misinterpretation, so it is not novel to my experience. Act of resistance – I conclude that it can be accurate to see these gestures as ways of enlarging the field of action and composition, elements and rhetoric. Availability because of investigating, of sharpening my awareness as to how and where I was going to find substitution for materials. Simple. Of course it is obvious that we carry dormant tools for surviving, and my work having a vital component, it is case sensitive if I stop making art, in that sense, resistance. If we magnify a little more as to how can it be seen as resistance, it all starts with my relationship to this particular city, my first project here that included the streets and the urban fabric, The uselessness of painting, was an act of resisting. Getting rid of my paintings by dropping them in the Thames, by doing that something else arrived. Situationism and psychogeography (and to a certain extent performance) followed as new dimensions of acting as an artist. If I simulate being homeless in the past few years, by using the waste bins and skips as places to find prime matter, is it resistance or a simulation? I can’t work that out. As a matter of fact what I am really looking for is singularity. This happens to me because I can do it this way. I have a certain elasticity that permits me doing this, it is not illusionism, it is more something to do with being blunt and telling others through my work that these processes are my way of obtaining access to art. My work is reflective of a blasted system. It is clear that we are now in the eye of the storm. It is crisis combined. It is now multi-ultra-crisis. And the symptoms even if reversible can only be overcome by the transmutation of ourselves. Constantly. It is a soul/spirit thing. HAH!

  11. When you talk about availability of materials it makes us think about a recent conversation we had in London about forms of resistance. In our opinion your work offers a type of resistance in which creating doesn’t depend on production values.

  12. As this format of communication develops, I am more interested in using it. Knowing that 6 other people are reading it, hopefully understanding why I am writing these words today, and why I will write them in the nearer days, hopefully having some interaction and participation, and triggering dialogue. I am returning to the logic of el trabajo and non-familiar logic of assemblage. I get the association with the aesthetics of ofrendas and of Santería altars, which I know nothing about.

    I have to stress that the choice of materials is purely a case of occurrence – it happened by studying the logistics of waste disposal, in and around Angel, where I nearby live. During my circulations and detours I start to recognize products that I could use as prime matter, and their availability. Since I could not visit, and avoid really, entrance in art shops. Due to my financial status I had to recognize other ways always within the perimeters of integrity. So fruits and vegetables became prime matter, also conveying preoccupations in terms of content, but at the moment, I am simply explaining the choice of materials, bear with me if it sounds confessional. So fruits and vegetables were available on a more or less daily basis. Then came the comprehension that in the bins there were bicycle inner-tubes occasionally. Nowadays I enter the shops and request them from the shop assistants, so, inner -tubes and tyres became a material too, perfectly flexible and adjustable to work with. Then the wood… I have a long love affair with picking trash. Most of my furniture in the past was composed out of pieces of trash. So there you go. That is the why’s… this is the reason why I use fruits and vegetables, rubber and wood as primary materials for my assemblages/sculptures/combines – le chiffonier became a surgeon – like Laetitia forecasted.

    On the choice of title: Instruments of quasi-null consequence, I have to say being a foreigner fixing a title, it was a case of days in no end thinking and reflecting. I have to address the following reasons and preoccupations as a means to justify this puzzling title. First and foremost it has something to do with having been contaminated in the past with a bug of disadvantage. I mean, if even for an artist who comes from an art school background it is difficult to verticalise, both in terms of chances of the delivery of the work to the public and then of recognition of its validity, imagine an autodidact in this day and age? So, one aspect is my pessimism. My pessimism in relation to the writing of proposals, in trying to validate what I do. This is maybe lingering due to the fact that I have had the misfortune of having early on exhibited work in boiling and pressuring artsy atmospheres. My nervousness and inability to express coherence when confronted with the real deal people or with academics. Those handicaps owed to my lack of formal training highlight me as a possible charlatan or an artist to avoid.

    Instruments of quasi-null consequence because I doubt this will change anything. I am used to my condition already, having been maybe a little obstinate, not being able to avoid interpreting the world more or less like an artist. My relations to shamanism have to do with a long lasting affinity. And during the last two years this affinity became clearer, due to some rituals and spiritual procedures that took place in my life, mostly for holistic/health reasons. So to these helpers and friends (and their descendants) it is a tribute, but also it is an acknowledgement that some nations have been politically mistreated and abused for the last few hundred years or so, and it is time for us to be familiar with movements like Idle no more – to understand that real politics start with respecting the Earth and its resources, with respecting our elders and understanding that when oral traditions go silent, there are consequences in the web of development. There it is, my interest in the invisible.

    Since in the last few years my work is process-based. I have to stress that having accepted to work in relation to anthropologist diaries and field books written in Africa, Mozambique, about the Makonde tribe and subsequent exhibition in CIAJG in 2013, this influences my work until now: process transfers, techniques overlap and work agglomerates.

    Still in relation to the title: this choice in vagueness, in ambiguity, subjectivity relates to the fact that I am rather obtuse in thinking that a proposal is a stifling thing. I prefer to indicate rather than to spoon-feed. I have not been domesticated and if this sounds rude or full of myself I need to say that I must find security in my words. Being unofficial I am then able to exercise risk and failure as engines. And why not stupidity (Thank the Gods for Avital Ronell) and experimentation. Unofficial but maybe too curious to keep silent.

    Finally I think it is import to acknowledge all these works have been done in extremely difficult circumstances. In transit (nomadic), in provisory studios in London and in Périgueux, in the open air, in garages, rooms, living rooms… process … but process that has had interruptions and crossovers with other daily stuff and mounting and demounting. Not in the regularity and safety and comfort of my studio. This is how I resolved my conflicts and problematics and preoccupations. I will return to the continent of drawing with a certainty – life is worth living the way it presents itself to one! 
… Ah, and there is little difference between the artist in me and the rest of me, I would like this to be understood too, entirety, my being human.

  13. Clearly your work can’t be seen in connection with Santería but rather as you mentioned with certain rituals. We just find interesting the way some ofrendas and trabajos in Santería look like and how aesthetically they seem related with your work. Mostly ofrendas and trabajos are arrangements made out of simple natural materials put together in a very beautiful way, which doesn’t mean that they are pretty or have been cosmetically prepared or designed. Because to start with they have been created for mainly altering the future of a person or an event. In that sense these arrangements can’t be aesthetically evaluated because they exist to “dialogue” with what is per-se invisible.

  14. Agreed Nuno, time can be crucial but on the other hand drawing resumes simplicity, to make a drawing can take only a few minutes, a piece of paper and a ball-pen. We were referring to the permanent underestimation that drawing practice suffers from institutions by considering it a minor practice. It seems that drawing comes to occupy nowadays the place where photography was for almost a century. There is less space for simplicity in a society still defined by the 80’s in which high production values set the general value standards.

  15. As you know so well, drawing needs time and time is the most well kept secret, nowadays. It also needs a definition, a song line; a very strong commitment with yourself and what you defined as your life’s horizon.

  16. Really interesting your thoughts. Usually we are more inspired by artists than by art in itself; any object without a story is indeed a senseless artefact. Getting lost can have many pejorative connotations but there is no better way to explore new ideas than being literally lost. When we are lost – and we know it – all our senses are alert. As you say we have unconsciously abandoned our regular path and only then we can make our own drawing. Antonio Machado said in one of his Proverbios y cantares: “Caminante, son tus huellas
el camino, y nada más;
caminante, no hay camino,
se hace camino al andar”. (Walker, your footsteps are the road, and nothing more. Walker, there is no road, the road is made by walking.)
When you talk about drawing and how it relates to the beginning of your practice it makes us think about Nuno Faria’s early thoughts on your work: “The basis for Otelo Fabião’s research is drawing, always taken as a point of departure, frequently as a point of arrival. Drawing as a broadened platform of interaction with the world, of self knowledge and acquisition of skill.”


    At this point we would like to ask Nuno a question – would you consider drawing a practice that has been underestimated and consequently marginalized?

  17. In 2002, I really started to get definition on what my work was about. I became fascinated with the way in which walking was a form of producing drawing. I lived at the time in a semi-isolated house in the hills north of Faro, near São Brás de Alportel, and there, where motorized vehicles were not a regular experience, I noticed that, not only did people cut tracks through the grass and soil, people tended to repeat their trajectories precisely in the same line, going uphill, then again following downhill normally on the same track, or on parallel ones. Different people were doing this, people were following the same tracks, producing exquisite soil drawings. There are reasons for this we can understand: it saves time, it is certain that if one follows a track produced by another chances are that falling might not happen, and that one is going to be led somewhere. Precaution, velocity, familiarity, those can be immediately pointed out as factors for the following of the track. But ultimately one wants to get to a destination. And I think people are terrified of the idea of not getting there, nor of getting lost. There even is a curse in American English, which is “get lost”, isn’t there? Of course, there are layers on getting lost – I mean degrees. With me, and the intention not being the one of getting there or getting lost, it is one of experiencing place. We have space, but place is different from space, it has to do with presence, and I risk to say that one becomes a psychogeographer when one is present in the triangulation body/time/space = place. So if one is present, will we ever be lost? Yes I’ve been lost many times, last one was yesterday in Battersea, I suddenly started thinking to myself “Battersea is a junk shop paradise”. Needless to say I was reviewing exactly the same shop fronts as I did 20 minutes before from the opposite side of the road, but being a little distracted does not mean lost. Lost has a tragic cloud hanging somehow above it. When I think of being lost I think of Gus Van Sant’s film “Gerry”. That’s lost … and tragic and sad. But that’s a desert story, a place where orientation is difficult to grasp, tracks have little definition, it seems scale is against our own natural designation. I associate being lost also with having to be somewhere at a certain time and being unable to do so, and when it is time for meetings and serious stuff that include others I do not venture into wanderings and detours. Those exercises are done when I know I have time for it. Time is essential. No time, no adventure. So, yes, I got lost many times in London, some of those times I even forced it to happen, and I think it is a childish thing, we need to overcome the sense that bogeyman is going to get you. Part of the charm of the Flâneur is intemporality, this otherworldly composite that, like good illusionist tricks, is a training matter.

    About the gathering of material: let me tell you, I pass pop art. I mean pop art is not my cup of tea. I can find it interesting for some aspects but that is it; I see pop art as a kind of phase; but then there is Rauschenberg. And, about a year ago, I saw a major exhibition at the Barbican: The Bride and the Bachelors: Duchamp with Cage, Cunningham, Rauschenberg and Johns. I was so impressed by the absolute beauty and actuality of Rauschenberg’s work and how it passed me sort of unnoticed till then. I remember one of his phrases that I felt so connected with, something with the likes of “I would go around the blocks, for a period of time, until I would have enough to make some work back at the studio”. I did not get any direct influence on this thing of collecting, actually. I think we are all collectors and gather naturally, being this prime matter for sculpture or assemblage or sea pebbles or a bunch of wild flowers. We collect. I collect with a notion that it might be important to denounce some small simple yet hidden black holes, symptomatic of the way things are failing. I can’t see the logic in the preoccupation of mass-producing fruits and vegetables, not to speak about hydroponic multiplication methods and GMO’s in action. When tonnes of edible food go to waste everyday, everywhere. Literally dumped, not for charity, not for cattle or animal feeding, not for fertilizer, gone, wiped out. And I doubt that my gesture of denouncing this calamity will make any difference. Like I doubt it will make any difference in substituting plastic and synthetic horrible materials with noble and wonderful fragments of carpentry and woodwork. I suppose I am nostalgic, yes, but nostalgic of a beauty and quality that I see dissipating, disappearing. I think it is time to stop casting in bronze. It is time to let people understand the brevity of life, not to be confronted with figures that project the eternalization of beauty and the body. We need to act now and be present, against all odds. And I do not actually care that much of what I am doing is artistically significant, or even if it is under the umbrella of contemporary art. I am not afraid or ashamed of denouncing my own fragility and precariousness of living amongst these fractures. In a way this is how I dress my strike or display my resistance.

  18. Talking about psychogeography, have you ever got lost in London? We know walking for your work is very important, somehow it is a way of gathering what you need, things that you didn’t know you needed until you found them.

  19. I suppose language has a lot to do with it – and ever since I was young, reading The Face, listening to Suede or P.J. Harvey. London had to me in those days this aura of crest of the wave. Language because one can permeate better a culture that one can better perceive. So those memories, listening to Tricky or Massive Attack, whilst making my first steps in comprehending art, and knowing that London was and still is a great cultural diffuser, at my doorstep, made me try living here with one foot.
    (I visited London first in 1998). I suppose it makes a perfect polarization with the sound of silence and the colour of the Atlantic. Don’t forget that I have an interest in psychogeography and situationism, and those, without a shadow of a doubt, can only be exercised by me in an urban terrain.

  20. It doesn’t sound awkward to us. We find it rather fascinating. The way you are travelling and the social-cultural contexts in which you move give to your work a different substance. In fact looking at your new works we see traces of melancholia – some of the objects carry a very carefully constructed simplicity that makes us think of the south, the place in which all gravitates beautifully and even a seashell looks like a treasure.

  21. I can’t say how disconnected I am or feel from what I see artwise in London. Firstly I do not take part in private views, normally I go to galleries specifically to see something announced in the newspaper or online; works that I have either interest in from knowing the artist’s work from the past or I am curious to find out what is the direction taken this time or by chance during my walks. When I did go to private views, I tended to gravitate towards more marginal venues like in Hackney or Dalston focused on performance, but more in the first years when I came here. Recently I have found interesting galleries (Matt’s Gallery, in Mile End, for example, and Camden Arts Centre) which often show in their programs more experimental / process-based art. Latest exhibitions I can mention that had some impact on me include Mike Nelson at Matt´s Gallery, Giuseppe Penone at the Whitechapel Gallery, Dieter Roth at Camden Arts Centre and Ana Mendieta at the Hayward Gallery.

    I can understand your question, how awkward it might look from the outside, a Portuguese man from the province coming to London. I suppose cultural downloads have risks, but I know I would not be living in London today if I had not met my partner in 2010. My original intention coming to London (2008) didn’t carry in attachment any of those disorientating appendixes probably because I knew and know I would spend periods of time back in Portugal, working in my studio, being by the ocean, immersing myself in nature, seeing friends and family, all antidotes to possible disorientations. 
I came here in order to deconstruct my own way of doing things, to find new approaches to my own production and have a break from homophobic and diminishing attitudes. I agree with it being inspiring not disorientating – we are all creatures of habits!

  22. Otelo, how disconnected are you / do you feel from what you see around artwise in London? Navigating between the south of Portugal and London can be very disorientating but I guess also very inspiring.

  23. Have you ever been alone in the middle of the ocean? We are watching “All is lost”[1]. There is no sound yet, an old man moves slowly inside a room that looks like a boat cabin. We already can tell how desperate the situation is for him but for sure the man has lived long enough, he keeps his cool, looks like he has it under control. We are looking at Robert Redford’s face but we are not thinking about him but of a friend.

    After many years of making art and living like artists, which means having no real “job”, our sense of time is completely gone. We don’t know which day of the week is today, we don’t know the month and we can hardly remember the year. This could be easily seen as our limbo; I personally don’t need drugs, what for? If anyway I am permanently spaced out… I shake my head and my eyes zoom back into the computer’s screen. There he is again, Robert Redford trying to survive, he is using whatever he has at hand to fix his sinking boat but yet there are no signs of anger or frustration on his face – out of a sudden I hear the computer’s most evil sound – the one telling me that I’ve got a new e-mail. That is a call I can’t ignore, in that moment I become Ivan Pavlov’s dog. I check the inbox… I’ve got two new e-mails, one with the subject: “Make love like you’re 18 again” and the second is from Otelo M. Fabião with images attached, tons of images, a sea of images. I am “swimming” through Otelo’s images while in the background I still have a window open with “All is lost”, in pause. Otelo’s new works could have been of great help to this desperate old man; they could have actually fed him or most importantly helped him to believe that at the end all can’t be lost – because how come “all is lost” if the sky and the sea still accompany him? But what about the earth, where is it?

    In Otelo’s artworks there are traces that belong to the sea and the earth and they appear as remains of what we know is way bigger and from a more powerful source. These fragments are often put together following a non-familiar logic. It is a kind of logic that reminds me of el trabajo [a]. A very simple assemblage of apparently non-related components un trabajo is made to achieve something we wish for, something that only a deity – for example Ochún [b] – would be able to confer. In that sense we are in front of “a thing” that is not an end in itself, Otelo’s objects function like instruments do. They are sometimes animated (in use) but most of the time they seem to be laying quietly, as if they would be resting inside of a drawer. There happens a particular type of syncretism in Otelo’s objects, an uncanny mixture of elements and materials that clearly belong to opposite worlds. Here it is where Otelo’s articulations and assemblages give us the possibility to perceive differences as similarities. In his series “Effigies of waste” a dried out orange is simply wrapped with electric wires. These are distinctively two different things; so strange to each other, whether sourced from an unknown ceremony or randomly found inside of a trash container.

    …In order to get the blessing and support of all divine creatures living inside of “el monte” we need to know how to enter “el monte”. [2]


    Herbs gathered in the wild or cultivated in the city might contain two types of overlapping ashé, pharmacologically active chemicals and a magically significant common name. Afro-Cubans rediscovered or re-invented the African speaking-healing connection by punning on the Spanish common names of the plants and trees they found in Cuba. Thus -for example-, raspa lengua (Cosearia hirsuta), or “foul-mouthed”, as it is known in English, has several applications that live up to its name: All the authorities agree that foul-mouthed “is very good for winning lawsuits. Pulverized and mixed with cascarilla [powdered egg shells], cinnamon and white sugar, it is sprinkled on the rival lawyer and prosecutor’s benches. By spreading this afoshé, you can make them hold their tongues”. If a lawyer should step on or inhale these harmless powders, he will fall mute, his speech will become slurred, and he will make mistakes, simply withdraw his complaint or refuse to represent his client. This plant also works (and rightly so) to “stop the tongues of foul-mouthed people”. [3]

    [a] El trabajo, (the work) refers to Santería work. Santería, also known as La Religión, Regla de Ocha, La Regla Lucumí or Lukumi is a syncretic religion of West African and Caribbean origin influenced by and syncretized with Roman Catholicism. Its liturgical language, a dialect of Yorùbá, is also known as Lucumí.
    [b] Ochún (Oshun, or Ochun. In the Yoruba religion, is an Orisha who reigns over love, intimacy, beauty, wealth and diplomacy)
    [1] “All is lost”, film by J.C. Chandor, 2013.
    [2] “El Monte”, Cabrera, Lydia, Havana, in Letras Cubanas, 1993, pp. 17-18 y 24. “El Monte”, (the wilderness). Many Afro-Cubans believe that the wilderness is a spiritual place in which divinities live and they are the responsibles of guiding us through life.
    [3] “El Monte”, Cabrera, Lydia, Havana, Letras Cubanas, 1993, pp. 536.

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