Nativité (Nativity)

Wifredo Lam

Sagua la Grande, Cuba, 1902 - Paris, France, 1982

Wifredo Lam moved to Paris in 1938, where he came into contact with the Surrealist group. He returned to the Caribbean at the beginning of World War II, with André Breton, Claude Lévi-Strauss and Victor Serge, and other members of the group. In 1941 he settled in Havana and began a fundamental series of works in which he represents human and animal forms inspired by African sculpture, combined with a symbolic landscape that finds its referent in the lush nature characteristic of the Caribbean.

In Nativité (Nativity) he takes up a recurring theme in the production from that period, the myths and rituals of Santeria, in which the tradition of the orishas, deities of this Afro-Cuban religion, merge with Christian narrations and iconographies. The image of the horse woman, the bird and the snake are motifs that reflect his interest in the totemic forms of African imagery that fit in with the Surrealist penchant for mixed beings and the intersections between nature and culture. The use of sombre colours dominating a composition that is synthetic and fragmented into planes foreshadows the type of work he would do upon reaching artistic maturity.