Wifredo Lam and Afro-Cuban Religion

While living in Cuba, Wifredo Lam became deeply influenced by the religion of Santería and especially its place within the current context of his country, which was struggling with racial inequality and political corruption. Santería, an Afro-Caribbean belief system with elements of Roman Catholic faith interwoven, originally emerged from slave trade as people brought from Africa were forced to convert to Catholicism. Lam experienced a predominantly Catholic upbringing however the traditions of Santería were still present during his childhood and upon his return to Cuba in 1941, Lam took a deeper interest in the religion and its ceremonies as he tried to express the culture of his country’s population of African descent. Many of Lam’s figures present as a Santería worshipper who is possessed, or “ridden”, by a spirit. These figures often have mask-like faces with a distinctly African style or else present as hybrid figures, many times a “horse-headed woman”.