Sunday, January 20, 2019


When the Spanish seamen arrived in the Caribbean in 1492, their description of my homeland caused the clergy and the lettered to proclaim that Columbus had arrived in the Terrestrial Paradise 

© 2019 by Michael Auld 

Terrestrial Paradise: n1a painting by Netherlandish artist Hieronymus Bosch, dating from around 1490. 2. where the remaining sins of the saved were washed away. The Fountain of Life stands on top of the hill. 3. the Caribbean, as believed by the arriving Spanish in 1492. 4. the pristine Indies and its people, flora and fauna inspired the idea of "Paradise". Also, the reported nudity and youthfulness of the Caribbean's Taino people was reminiscent of Bosch's painting
Unfortunately, I was not taught this point of view by the British educational curriculum by our Colonial government. Jamaica got its independence in 1962 when I was 19, headed for Howard University in Washington, DC. Jamaicans were also taught that they were mainly an African people with a mixed population of bi- and tri-racial "Brown Men", Indian (Hindu), European, Lebanese, Chinese, Sephardi Jew, Portuguese, et al minorities, all subjects in a more important British Empire. In the Empire the curriculum was standardized British. The brainwash was so pervasive that even in the movie theaters, before the film began, we stood to the playing of "God Save The Queen." Nothing was mentioned about the Amerindian Taino civilization (the "Terrestrial Paradise") on which the island was built. After marrying a Native American on campus, my eyes became opened to the realities of the Amerindian hemisphere in which I was born.


Colonial education in the English-speaking Caribbean included very little about Jamaican history or culture. So, most Jamaicans knew almost nothing about where we were, geographically. Since the majority of islanders were of African descent, my self discovery as an artist began with our African retentions. 

During my African period, I used welded metal, inlaid with etched Plexiglass to make some pieces. Themes were Obatala, the Yoruba father figure; Olokun, the Yoruba god of the sea; a protective triptych with figures of Ast (Isis), Marcus Garvey and Harriet Tubman, as an installation to protect the children who were being killed by the Apartheid South African Government. Each figure was an icon based on an Ethiopian image of a guardian angel. 

Above Left: "Ogun" the Yoruba God of Metallurgy was also homage to the material that I chose.. [Wall sculpture from welded steel, beaten metal and bicycle rims).  
Center: Sword with the cutout of a dog, Ogun's symbol.
Right: Brass crown, topped by a lost wax casting of a bumblebee.


Above: Metal and inlaid etched Plexiglass examples from an Egyptian inspired Horus piece titled "Sun's Sons". A tribute to father and son to compliment the traditional "Mother  and Child" artworks. This sculpture was a part of my Egyptian inspired pieces.(Metal. Made from the front forks of bicycles")

AMERINDIAN AESTHETICS: An Artist's Re-education

When Columbus arrived in my part of the world that he believed was a Terrestrial Paradise, there was a lost opportunity to discover where he actually was. Blinded by an ethnocentrism and a search for gold, he was not capable of understanding where he had arrived. He had come to an alien Amerindian hemisphere steeped in the beauty of ingenious, ancient, and diverse cultures.  

Successive myopic Europeans, Africans, Middle Easterners, and Asians arrived with shared blinders. As an artist, born in Jamaica, this non-Indigenous myopia was not good enough for me. I belatedly had to discover geographically where I had been born and may die. I was neither in Europe or Africa. For an artist, this self-ignorance can be devastating.

My dilemma was that a major part of my cultural puzzle was missing. The solution was self-education. I began to research my Northern Caribbean Taíno and our Eastern Caribbean Kalinago (Island Carib) cultures. After all, those nostalgic things that I identified as "Jamaican ", were actually Taíno. I was convinced that my artwork should reflect the culture on which I was weaned. Steeped in a Eurocentric Colonial education, I began research in African folklore and West African aesthetics. My sculptures were based on "Objects of Power".

For a couple of years prior to 1992, I began to research Taíno and Central American designs and sculptural aesthetics. My theory was that if the Columbian Encounter did not occur then Central American artistic aesthetics would have spread into to the Caribbean. There was already indications of Yamaye (Jamaican) Taino interaction along the island's South Coast, just across from the Maya of Mexico's Yucatan. Cortez had come across a Yamaye woman when he arrived in Mexico. In terms of stylistic borrowing, Mesoamerica would have stylistically been The Egypt of the Americas. So, I mixed Mesoamerican sculptural aesthetics with the Taíno sense of design. (This experiment can be seen below with the “Itiba Cahubaba” and the birth of the “Four Father’s of Humankind” sculpture.)

I began to research Taíno artistic, cultural, aesthetics and mythology. So, in 1991, at the advent of the Columbian Encounter, I applied for a Cafritz Foundation Grant to research indigenous retentions in Jamaica (Taino), Puerto Rico (Taino), Antigua (Arawak?), and Dominica (Island Carib),.


Below: “Iguanaboina”, the source of life. Iguana=the Sun, along with, Boina (the Black Raincloud), together they represent the source of life. (Welded steel, carved Plexiglass and inlay, 9' tall).

Above: "Lightening Eel: Sea 
God of the Caribs". (Carved
 from a 9' tall pine tree.)

Below: “Guabancex" the Huracan/Hurtricane.(wall sculpture). Taino women made Guababcex, the Angry Woman Goddess and Rider of the Winds, in the shape of later satellite images of the hurricanes.(See image on the right palm of the sculpture.) To the ceramicists, the "eye" of the hurakan was the face of Guabancex. [Clay, wood, vines]

Below: “Itiba Cahubaba”, the Fifth Earth Mother” and the “Four Fathers of Humankind” (Middle pix) in the womb/birth-cave). She dies in the cesarian births.


 Left: Detail; "The Four Fathers of Humankind" representing the four human races. They are emerging from the primordial womb/cave painted with Taino pictographs. Itiba Cahubaba is styled after Mesoamerican sculptures and her sons by cesarean birth, are from Taino aesthetics.. 

Bottom: The epic of “Guahayona” (Three views) the First Shaman and his “Travels to the Island of Women (Matanino) and the Island of Gold” (Guanin). This story inspired the Spanish novel with the island of  "La California" (the naming of the state), and the naming of the Amazon. (Wooden slats, conch shell, paint, vines, & red and blue macaw feathers.) The canoe is in the form of the solitary fish, a barracuda (Kalinago/Island Carib word, meaning "He who stays alone".) 

  Below: “Matanino”, the "Island of Women” from the "Travels of Guahayona". Right: Detail of head (A tri-Pointed stone cemi. Two fertility breasts, one a turtle (Childbirth), the other a frog, also associated with childbirth. 

Print: with Guahayona in his canoa (canoe) 
and images from Puerto Rico 
of Atabey, the virgin Mother of
Yucahu, main Taino god of the yuca 

and of the sea, without

 Left: "Guanin" (The Island of Gold). (Cherry wood). A symbol of gold, to the Taino the hummingbird or Colibri's shimmering feathers represents that metal,

Right: A silkscreen print of Guaha-yona's travel to Matinino (meaning "No Fathers"), is the Island of Women

Guahayona said to the women, "Leave your children and come away with me and I will give you much gueyo." (Guahayona means "Our Pride", while gueyo is a green chewing tobacco mixed with a salty ashes of an algae. That gives a buzz. He then takes the women to Matinino where he falsely promises to return for them. The moral to women? "Be aware of pride."

Below: Accompanying silkscreen print titled, "Guanin". Guanin is 14k gold and the Guahayona Epic, he leaves Matinino for Guanin. This story was recorded on Hispaniola (Ayti Bohio or Kiskeya) by Fr. Ramon Pane, transported to Spain and influenced Spanish novelist Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo who was a Castilian author who published “Sergas de Esplandián”. California takes its name from de Montalvo’s novel and the ruler of the mythological Island’s Queen Calafia, who was the “black”, virginal Amazon ruler of La California.--

Enlargement of: "Guanin" (cherry wood,
Mother of Perl inlays, Gold-leaf)

Right: "Guanahani", (meaning: Island of the Iguana) on which Columbus first arrived in the Bahamas. (carved Limestone). Columbus promptly changed the name to "San Salvador".
Guahayona's Epic: "Travel to Guanin", (Silkscreen print on hand-made paper.) The central image is the incorporation of a Spanish woodcut from the period. It captures "panning" for gold, an original Taino method of gold-mining alluvial gold powder near streams in "Hispaniola" (Ayti Bohio or Kiskeya,) 

Top: Installation of “Anacaona on her Dujo (stool/throne) in her Bohio (Roundhouse)”. The Bohio is composed of iguanas (upright) and Boinas (roof) symbols of life. Anacaona means Golden Flower. She was the "Kacike/Cacika (queen/ruler) of Jaragua". She governed over 100 Kackies in today's Haiti (Ayte Bohio). She was assassinated in 1503 by the Spanish governor Nicolas de Ovando (for whom she had set up a reception) as part of the Taino genocide.

Left: Anacaona; made from cherry wood, Amazon parrot wings and conch shell earrings.. 

Above:: Video; “He Who Does Not Blink”, the Origin StoryThe Watchman at the entrance of the cave/womb from which the Taíno entered the world.

Installation: "Bohuti Mucaro" (Shaman Owl) with maracas (Taino) and a sacred cigar (Taino)  is a life-sized sculpture of a shaman shape-shifting into a bird ("He Who Does Not Blink") --Wood, bark, tree gourds (calabash/higuera).

Enlargement: "Gifts to the World". The gourds surrounding the sculpture contains just a few items from the Taino culture that entered world cultures after 1492.

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