Paukwa! Pakawa! Hadithi? Hadithi?

Kuna hadithi najua kuhusu Re/presenting the Wild [is the moon] Woman Archetype

In (not only) my experience, lead performers teach improvisational possibilities, ways to think about improvising on the archetypal structure, but only after the neohphyte has reached a basic level of performative

competence; that is, only after the student understands the basic aural, visual, and gestural components of a given archetypal praise song, rhythm or movement. This notion of a constantly moving target calls  into question what one might call the body of material to be taught. What happens when that body does not remain constant?  The implication is that what is being taught (and learned) is not necessarily a fixed repertoire of songs, patterns, dances, and the like, but rather a way of hearing and performing and conveying the structures that inform these chants, rhythms, and gestures in a meaningful way. What is being taught, ultimately, after the student learns to imitate the teacher’s gestures, is how to perform differently from one’s mwalimu.

sacred space

This idea of imitation leading to (improvisatory) difference is directly connected to the notion of performative intent. One learns the basic rules of performance and engagement with the other performers in order to know how to interpret and bend those appropriately. If one does not have the initial feel for a rhythm, for example, how can one improvise successfully from it?……

Rogelio Martinez Fure, the asesor (artistic advisor) of the Conjunto Folklorico…..A gifted student of both Argeliers Leon and Fernando Ortiz, his artistic vision has guided de Conjunto Folklorico for most of its institutional life, from  through the mid-1960s, en then again throughout the 1980s and 1990s. In a July 1992 interview, Martinez Fure stated that he considered Ortiz to be the single greatest influence on his institutional and intellectual work.

Infact, Martinez Fure’s well-known book Dialogos imaginarios, written in the mid-1970s and published in 1979, is an “imaginary dialogue” with Fernando Ortiz about the ideology and uses of “folklore”. Even in the first chapter of his book, Martinez Fure promotes the idea of stimulating the transformation and development of folklore, by “cleaning up the folk”…[the bigger point is] One cannot escape the massive influence of Fernando Ortiz in Cuba….and this post is a tribute to legends of dis diaspora of righteousness and imaginary conversations with honourable elders like….

It is useful to compare Martinez Fure’s vision and critique of [the uses of] folklore (and Afro-Cuban, or what Alberto calls “black”) with that of the responsible (head) of the CFNC  percussion department, Alberto Villareal,

Katherine Hagedorn asked Alberto about his understanding of the term folklore as it related to the work of the Conjunto Folklorico during a September 1992 interview. Alberto’s vision of folklore, like that of Fernando Ortiz, refers specifically to the religious performance traditions of Cuba`s African-based population:

We [the members of Conjunto Folklorico] are looking for a way for folklore to be a principal source in Cuba, because really, from the point of view of art, the principal source for Cuba is the Conjunto Folklorico Nacional….So every time that Cuba`s folklore is to be represented in other countries, they send us……Ofcourse, folklore has always been a little bit off to the side, which can be understood as the attempt to eliminate it by people who don`t understand how the Conjunto Folklorico was founded. There have been people who have wanted to eliminate the Conjunto, too, because they said we are religious, we are black – but now they know they can`t eliminate the Conjunto. Because no country can eliminate its folklore [emphasis mine]. To represent a country`s folklore is like representing its flag. They have finally realised this. So, for this reason, there has been more of an effort to educate foreigners than Cubans on the part of the Conjunto……

But if, as Mercedes Cros Sandoval (1979) asserts, Santeria is a “mental health care system” for the shock of exile, what does it mean that sacred intent is confused and conflated with criminal intent? Is it simply the

collision of cultural values, or is there something theologically valid about seeing crimes and misdemeanors in diverse pan-Afrikan rituals?

The physicality of sympathetic magic, in which one sheds the blood of a bird instead of the blood of a human, works because the stand-in or metaphor can be disassociated from the primary source only in a limited way before it loses its ritual and symbolic powah: blood is blood and flesh is flesh; wine and bread won`t do.

It is precisely the blood sacrifice that riles up nonpractitioners. In Hialeah, Florida, in Miame-Dade County (home to hundreds of thousands of exiled Cubans), only in 1993, after years of litigation, did the Church of the Lukumi Babalu-Aye (an institution dedicated to the practice of Santeria, led by obba Ernesto Pichardo Pla) finally win its case: the Supreme Court ruled that the animal sacrifice practiced in Santeria was protected under the Constitution`s basic freedoms of religious expression. In Cuba, even until the early 1980s, religious practitioners of Santeria were routinely arrested on their way to initiations….An important subset of the prisoners of colour who were freed and subsequently directed toward the United States in the 1980 Marielito exodus from Cuba were practitioners of Santeria…..


Only de relative recent en conscious emphasis on Cuba’s Afrikan origins has allowed its scholars to begin to come to terms with its history of annihilation and exploitation. Walterio Carbonell’s Critica: Como surgio la cultura nacional (1961) marks a turning point in the postrevolutionary Cuban understanding of de history of slavery. Carbonell suggests that de slave revolts, oral culture, en religious traditions of nineteenth-century and twentieth-century Afro-Cubans were de real roots of the Cuban revolution, thus implying that the legitimate successors to de revolution were, in fact, Cuba’s long-oppressed black population. Carbonell’s work was immediately banned and its author imprisoned, so threatening did de young revolutionary government find his suggestions….[na bado]

It is useful to consider Cuba’s role in de Atlantic slave trade to gain a more nuanced understanding of how de prevailing attitudes about Cuba’s black population at the turn of the twentieth century might have been influenced by de events of de nineteenth century. Some of de first enslaved African peoples landed on Cuban shores in 1511, en under Spanish rule, Cuba continued to import slaves until the early 1870s. The indigenous Arawak and Taino peoples were annihilated by Spain’s invasion en colonization of de island during the first two centuries of de slave trade.

Spain then imported African, Asian and Yucatecan labourers to “replace” the indigenous peoples who were to have worked on Cuba’s sugar, tobacco, and coffee plantations….


Widely varying interpretations of Cuba’s racial composition have fueled both prerevolutionary and postrevolutionary constructions of twentieth (& 21st) century Cuban identity…..of immediate importance here is that the conditions of nineteenth- and early twentieth century Cuban blacks are evoked and carefully shaped first as a socioeconomic nadir from which to improve, and later as  de basis for de revolution’s preliminary ideas of a national Cuban culture, many of which were manifest in the Teatro Nacional and the Conjunto Folklorico, along the lines of the performative structures set up by Ortiz na wahenga wetu…..

pamoja tunafika from the diaspora of righteousness to de Afreekan shores, sharing mo resources in cracking these codes to freedom, kwasababu The most important thing is to give the people confidence, to help them understand that they can at last define their own happiness, to enable them to decide on their own aims and understand the price to be paid. [Thomas Sankara]

hadithi hii imetoka Divine Utterances: The Performance of Afro Cuban Santeria  by Katherine Hagedorn