Berta Jottar and Román Diaz


and by Pedro Martinez, Roman Díaz, and Berta Jottar.

Photo courtesy of Berta Jottar.

Photo by Alisa Froman.

The Abakuá and the Regla de Osha are two Afro-Cuban religious practices in direct relationship to nature. Their embodiment assumes aesthetic practices that reflect the ethics ruling the initiated. For instance, in the Abakuá associations, the representation of the spirits (of all the living and the dead) are articulated via the gesture of the Ireme: masquerade figures that speak via their body in choreography. As for the Regla de Osha, the initiate’s head is ruled by his/her Orisha (deity) whose principles organize the initiate’s codes of conduct, from his/her diet to his/her self-fashioning. If religiosity is embodied via aesthetic practices, certain secular practices function as spiritual venues for the adepts. Rumba (an Afro-Cuban expressive culture) allows the participants to express and communicate their belief system via sound, gesture, and song. Indeed, rumba could also be understood as a secular and aesthetic manifestation that performs the quotidian spirituality and religiosity of the practitioners. This work-in-progess presentation will be a sonorious and visual meditation about aspects of the Regla de Ocha and the Abakuá aesthetics of religiosity. The presentation will also include the performance of traditional Cuban rumba as a secular genre expressive of the spiritual layers that constitute an Afro-Cuban worldview.

Raised in Mexico City, Berta Jottar is an interdisciplinary artist-scholar and cinematographer. In Mexico City, she works as an Assistant Director and Producer in several cultural television channels (Canal Once, UTEC, Bellas Artes); on a TV series focused on popular culture and the performing arts. In the mid 1980s, she moved to the Tijuana/San Diego border region where she was a former member of Border Art Workshop/Taller de Arte Fronterizo (1988-1992) and founding member of Las Comadres Art Collective (1991-1993). Her artwork explores the border as a discursive and material space constituted via the crossing body, the politics of sexualization, and site-specific artivism. In the fall of 1994, Jottar moved to New York City where she finished her Ph.D. in the Department of Performance Studies at TISCH School of the Arts (NYU). Her thesis, for which she received the Cynthia Jean Cohen Bull Memorial Award for Academic Excellence, focused on New York City’s rumba music scene. Jottar has published several academic articles, and produced the rumba CD The Routes of Rumba with Pedro Martinez and Román Díaz which includes an innovative interactive rumba. This CD is the soundtrack for Central Park Rumba: The Pavlovian Drum . In Havana, Cuba, she has collaborated with Gregorio Hernandez “El Goyo,” Miguel Angel Mesa “Aspirina,” and Pancho Kinto in several ethnographic, or poetic, video projects. Currently, she is working on a documentary and a book about the history of Central Park rumba in NYC while continuing her career as an independent cinematographer and scholar.

Born and raised in Havana, Román Díaz is a master percussionist trained by elders in the fine arts of classic Afro-Cuban musical and religious traditions. Díaz is the direct disciple of Maestro Francisco Mora “Pancho Kinto,” and was a central participant in Kinto’s ceremonial ensemble Grupo Añaki. Within the Regla de Osha, Díaz is initiated as a master drummer “Omo Aña”, (the son of the drum). As an Abakuá, Díaz is responsible for the music of his Plante (religious house); and the Bonko Enchemiyá (sacred improvisational drum for the Efik territory and the Abakua musical orchestra). As an intellectual, Díaz collaborates with many scholars, such as Dr. Ivor Miller for whom he directed the music troupe participating in the first exchange between members of the Cuban Abakuá and West African Ekpé societies in New York. Díaz has also travelled with Dr. Miller to subsequent encounters with members of the Leopard Society in West Africa. In Cuba, Díaz was a member of the prestigious rumba ensemble Yoruba Andabo with Merceditas Valdez, as well as the groups Oba Ilu (directed by maestro Gregorio Hernandez), and the Ven Tu Rumbero with maestro Chavalonga. Díaz performed with the Comparsas: Las Bolleras, Marqueses de Atares, and Componedores de Batea; and worked at the Escuela Nacional de Intructores de Arte; and the Conjunto Folklorico Raices Profundas (directed by maestro Juan de Dios Ramos). In the USA, he organized a performance ensemble called Omi Odara, (water that blesses). They perform ritual Santería, Abakuá, and Palo Monte music while continuing the rumba and son lineages of Arsenio Rodriguez, Chano Pozo, and Ignacio Pineiro’s Septeto Nacional, all of whom drew upon Cuba’s African heritage in their music. Díaz has participated in several recordings and films like “Calle 54”, and is an active musician within NYC’s popular music and jazz scenes. Díaz continues his work within the Afro-Cuban religious communities.

Date: Monday, December 12, 2011

Time: 7PM

We prefer that you RSVP. Your RSVP will help facilitate security. Also, we expect that the event will fill-up quickly. If you are learning about this event at the last minute, please feel free to come, and we will do our best to accommodate you, but we cannot guarantee seating if the event fills up. Please RSVP at [email protected] or (212) 925-6625, ext 207.

Please bring a valid picture i.d.

Division of Interdisciplinary Studies at the Center for Worker Education
The City College of New York
25 Broadway, 7th floor (in front of the bull statue at Wall Street)
New York NY 10004
(212) 925-6625, ext 0

Subways: 4 or 5 to Bowling Green; R or 1 to Rector Street; J or Z to Broad Street

Sponsors and Special Thanks:
This talk is possible thanks to major funding from the City College of New York at the City University of New York (CCNY, CUNY). Major funding was also provided by the City SEEDS Award, and with support from the Offices of the President and Provost and President Lisa Staiano-Coico. We would also like to acknowledge support at CCNY from the Division of Interdisciplinary Studies at the Center for Worker Education, the Department of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, the M.A. in the Study of the Americas, and the Department of Media and Communication Arts. Additional thanks go to the Transnational and Transcolonial Caribbean Studies Research Group (TTCSRG).