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Catalog Data

Created by:
Harmonia Rosales, Cuban American, born 1984  Search this
oil paint on wood panel with iron oxide and 24k gold leaf
H x W (painting): 23 1/2 × 35 1/2 in. (59.7 × 90.2 cm)
H x W (framed): 28 3/4 × 40 3/4 in. (73 × 103.5 cm)
oil paintings
Cultural Place:
Cuba, Caribbean, Latin America, North and Central America
West Africa, Africa
This painting, named Oya’s Betrayal, interweaves the representation of Yoruba tales in a Renaissance style, drawing parallels to the Greek/Roman mythology story of Vulcan catching his wide Venus with Mars. In the artist’s own words to NMAAHC, “Oya’s Betrayal tells the story of unrequited love and the start of the bloodiest wars fought in the Orisha Kingdom. In the Land of the Orisha’s, Oya was not only used as a pawn to subdue Ogun, the god of war and labor, insatiable aggression but used in Shango’s plan to rid the world of labor and war.”
The painting features the Orishas, or deities, Ogun, Oya, and Shango. Above them is an arch, influenced by the Renaissance painting “School of Athens” by Raphael. The Greek keys pattern is replaced by the andrinka symbol "wawa aba." Literally meaning the seed of the wawa plant, it is a West African symbol of hardiness, toughness, and perseverance.
The three Orishas are draped in fabrics in their representative color woven in gold: Ogun – the god of iron, war, labor and technology – in green, black, red; Oya – storms, winds, last breaths, rebirth, change, and the gatekeeper of the cemetery – in dark purple/red; and Shango – the god of thunder, lightning, and fire – in red. Shango is known for his bangles, charismatic playing of the batá drums, and feared for his axe. He is depicted wearing bangles on his wrists, ankles, and knees, has a batá drum on his lap, and a double-headed axe near his left hand.
Though golden halos are less common in Renaissance painting, they are used here to reinforce the sacredness of the Orishas. Each golden disc bears the Orisha’s name in Spanish, Portuguese, and Yoruba, connecting the deities to their multilingual Diasporic reality.
In the bottom corners, the Ibeji twins in their respective red and blue colors are reinterpreted here as cherubs, which are typically present among immortal beings. As an Orisha, the Ibeji twins symbolize joy, happiness, and abundance. The Ibeji twins were taken in by Oya after Oshun was shunned for birthing them, possibly because Oya is barren. While Oya took them in, Shango is known as their protector.
On the ground, between Ogun and Oya and at the feet of Oya, are fruits that are likely pomegranates. In Greek/Roman mythology, the pomegranate is a reference to Venus, and a symbol of desire, fertility, and marriage. Oya’s offerings include dark red and purple fruits, which include pomegranates as well as plus. In some variations, Oya and Shango share these offerings. This is perhaps another symbolic tie between the Greek/Roman and Orisha deities.
A framed oil painting by Harmonia Rosales depicting a story of the Yoruba Orishas Ogun, Oya, and Shango. The painting is on a wood panel with iron oxide and 24k gold leaf. The three Orishas are shown beneath a Renaissance style arch in front of a barren landscape. Ogun, standing at left, is in a green, gold, and red patterned robe, reaching towards Oya, who is seated along with Shango. Oya is in a purple and gold robe and has her hand on Shango’s knee. Shango is dressed in a red and gold robe. On his lap is a batá drum and his axe is held passively in his proper left hand. Each deity has a golden halo bearing the Orisha’s name in Spanish, Portuguese, and Yoruba: [OGGUN / OGUN / OGUM / __OU]; [_A / OIA / OYA / OIA / ASNA_]; and [CHANGO / SHANGO / SANGO / XANG_]. Pomegranates are scattered at the feet of the Orishas and at the bottom corners are cherubic renditions of the Ibeji twins. With thin, gold halos on their heads, the twin on the left is wrapped in a red cloth and the twin on the right is wrapped in a blue cloth. The andrinka symbol "wawa aba" is imprinted on the arch above them. The artist’s signature [Harmonia] is at the bottom right of the recto in white/gold.
African American  Search this
African diaspora  Search this
Art  Search this
Feminism  Search this
Multilingual communication  Search this
Religion  Search this
Spirituality  Search this
Credit Line:
Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, purchased through the American Women's History Initiative Acquisitions Pool, administered by the Smithsonian American Women's History Initiative
Object number:
Restrictions & Rights:
© Harmonia Rosales
Permission required for use. Proper usage is the responsibility of the user.
See more items in:
National Museum of African American History and Culture Collection
Patakis?of the Orishas
Visual Arts
Data Source:
National Museum of African American History and Culture