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5 October
26 January 2025
Free, no booking required

Belkis Ayón: Sikán Illuminations

Sikán Illuminations examines Cuban artist Belkin Ayón’s (1967 – 1999) brief but intense artistic career. Using a printmaking process called collography, she used her exceptional technical skills and innovative use of this method to produce richly detailed and enigmatic artworks which recreate the cultural and spiritual world of the Abakuá.

The Abakuá secret society, a predominantly black male Cuban religious group originating in the tribes and ritual traditions of West Africa, served as a lifelong source of inspiration for Ayón. Ayon explored the heritage of the Abakuá by focusing on the mythical female figure of Sikán. Ayón reinterprets the origin story of the Abakuá by making visible the emotions and struggles of Sikán in her imagery and combines it with her own ideas and experiences of life as a black Cuban woman. 

Ayón’s work defies societal norms and creates space for imagining alternative possibilities for spirituality and gender equality. Telling ancient stories in new ways, these artworks create a radical new mythology capable of amending the past and altering the future.

Belkis Ayón was one of the most prominent figures of 20th Century Cuban art and Sikán Illuminations is the first major survey exhibition of Ayón’s work in a UK institution. The exhibition consists of 50 works belonging to the Belkis Ayón Estate based in Havana and is curated by Corina Matamoros and Sandra García Herrera.