Annunciation is the first painting I painted after my initial New York awakening. I was 28 years old and at the peak of my molecular bio-energy. You can feel the sudden burst of the Big Apple's electric zap in the composition after all the early years of adolescent brooding over potatoes and eggs and the romantic nostalgia of the preceeding Flight to Egypt.
In those days I had an obsessional passion for the female body that lasted deep into my thirties (to be replaced by rocks 'n' stones)..
Years later Carlos Santana saw a reproduction of the Annunciation in a magazine and wanted it for the cover of his all time best selling Abraxas album. It did me a world of good. I saw the album pinned to the wall in a shaman's mud hut in Niger and inside a Rastafarian's ganja hauling truck in Jamaica. I was in good global company, muchissimas gracias, Carlito!
The text above is edited extracts from Mati's book 'Collected Works 1959-1975'. A detailed explanation of the Biblical meaning of Annunciation can be found in Wikipedia. It is the revelation (announcement) by the angel Gabriel to Mary that she would conceive a child to be born the Son of God.
Here, in Mati's provocative interpretation, a winged and tattooed Gabriel is depicted astride a conga drum, pointing heavenwards to a Hebrew Aleph symbol (signifying beginning), with a dark-skinned and naked Mary surrounded by images of fertility. "Drums were always used to announce something," Mati said. "They were a medium of communication in Africa." To the left are three Wodaabe Charm Dancers, perhaps representing the Three Kings, and an image of Mati himself.
At the end of the rainy season the Wodaabe people of Niger (shown in the detail above) hold an annual seven day ritual celebration where the men participate in a series of charm and beauty dances judged solely by women. During the week, women single out the most desirable men. As part of the ritual, Wodaabe men decorate their faces to appeal to the women spectators. A man who can hold one eye still as he rolls the other is considered especially alluring to his female judges.
Although the title, combined with the depiction of the Virgin Mary as a voluptuously sensual black girl, is a clear challenge to our preconceptions, this painting can also be seen as a visual celebration of life on earth in all its richness and diversity: Music, scent, sex and sensuality, colour, taste, texture, the eroticism of flowers, the sensuality of stone, the natural beauty of landscapes and of all the fruits of nature are all represented here.
The detail on the left shows the 'Cala' cove in Deia, Mallorca, as seen from Mati's home there.
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