josé bedia

trazos de una canción

Play Video


(orality and link inthe recent work byJosé Bedia)


The same is achieved with the slaughtering of an elephant as with a glass of water and a candle. The secret, or what experts call ‘the sacrament or the sacred’ liesindeedin the chant offered up to the candle and the water in the glass.

Octavio Colé

Babalawo Priest

45 years of Ifá


In a very low voice, almost as if whispering, the Cuban-American artist José Bedia has been committed—for years—to rescuing orality, leaving his mark by plotting a map across his visual work, grounded in the language of drawing and painting, a symbolic map of the oral transmission of knowledge, which is a constant feature that has always been among the utopian and methodological premises of his work. Bedia builds his work upon an operation of archaeology and restoration of his anthropological studies on how ‘primalist cultures’ survive nowadays, in conjunction with how popular cultures survive the civilisational advance of social progress as an homogeneising machinery. In this regard, the artist is a recorder who notes down endemic marks that tend to disappear from the strata that make up our voracious omnivorous cultures. These transatlantic cultures are permeated by Africanity, Hispanicness and Aboriginality—a mixture in perpetual mutation, in an infinite movement of self-definition.

Perhaps due to the urgency of the one who does not know how far we are from the inevitable disappearance of these cultural fragments that are being concealed, hidden, silenced, in his last production Bedia struggles to ‘illustrate’ us—in the sense of someone who teaches, shows or provides a gnostic initiation—how these oral transmissions remain among us, as the murmur of certain nanas (lullabies, many of them already universal inasmuch as they have transcended their localism), bolerosdanzoneshabanerascantes de ida y vuelta, whispered songs, sung like a susurration in the ear of the initiate, the newborn, the naive child that the man is still—as day after day the West becomes childish in its late narcissism—that still resonate among us.

In a universe of lures of self-adulation, Bedia disassociates himself and lowers the speed of his works, making them less scandalous, more intimate, more direct, less enigmatic, as if a need to ‘be understood’ prevailed in him, even becoming more descriptive; calling upon a direct narrative relationship, not even loaded with his usual sense of humour, but rather didactically analogous, clear… clairvoyant.

Perhaps this need beats in José Bedia because it is anchored in the knowledge that in such relationship of faith there is a link, a nexus that must be saved, noting it down, turning it into a visual invention, a notebook of anecdotes, a symbolic chronicle that shows a still undefeated resistance. A connection between man and plant, plant and animal, animal and woman, woman and Moon, Moon and Earth, mountain and sea, sea and Earth and spirit… and so on. A reciprocal eco-systemic relationship where ‘something’ of that ancestral knowledge may show us the rules of the game of our survival as a species, as a present society that is projected towards the future from the past. A timeless, cross-cutting link, which holds knowledge that transcends time. A dialogue that Bedia understands as a gift in what is granted, in the exchange, in the voice of others, in their words and their musicality, their minimum symphony.

Even if that music sounds in the background, like a whisper, a silent divine chant, in a low voice, only for connoisseurs and initiates, experts in those once mysterious, enigmatic languages which are hidden from current knowledge—languages that he knows perfectly because he knows that if he asks… his deities answer, which he captured in that germinal work entitled: Si yo te llamo tú me respondes [If I call you, you answer me] (1985) A depiction of the dialogical and linking system that describes the relationship between an Initiate and their Nganga.

Today, perhaps, still someone of faith.

Omar-Pascual Castillo

Spring 2019.