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 Judith Bettelheim

 "Judith Bettelheim has been doing fieldwork in the Caribbean consistently since 1975, focusing on Afro-Caribbean culture and festivals. Her doctoral work was on the Afro-Jamaican Jonkonnu festival. Since 1985 she has been doing fieldwork in Cuba. In preparation for the exhibition "Caribbean Festival Arts", Bettelheim visited six different Caribbean countries. She co-curated and co-authored Caribbean Festival Arts, (University of Washington Press: 1988) with John Nunley of the Saint Louis Art Museum. She received an American Council of Learned Societies fellowship for research on Carnaval in Santiago de Cuba in 1989-90 and has returned to Cuba many times, recently leading a tour to the Havana Biennial 2000. Cuban Festivals: A Century of Afro-Cuban Culture was published in 2001 (Ian Randle Press)." - from her page at San Francisco State University. She retired in 2015.

AFROCUBA: Works on Paper, 1968-2003 (link to its own detailed page)

Judith Bettelheim
with contributions by Alexis Esquivel and David Mateo
2005 San Francisco State University
ISBN 0-295-98476-7
University of Washington Press

"AfroCuba" focuses on the rich AfroCuban influence in the visual art of Cuba during the post-revolutionary period. It represents the first opportunity for U.S. audiences to appreciate nearly four decades of artistic production shaped by the influential forces of AfroCuban religion, social struggle, questions of cultural heritage, and personal and diplomatic relations with Africa. Representing the work of twenty-six artists residing in Havana and Santiago de Cuba, "AfroCuba" includes sixty prints and drawings masterfully executed in a variety of techniques, among them lithography, collagraph, woodcut, screen print, and ink and crayon drawing. The book includes essays by curator and art historian Judith Bettelheim, an expert on the African diaspora, with a foreword by Keith Morrison, an essay by Cuban artist and curator Alexis Esquivel, excerpts from David Mateo's Looking at Cuban Printmaking (Havana 2001), and a technical glossary by Sylvia Solochek Walters. Cuban artist and critic Tonel (Antonio Eligio Fernandez) served as curatorial consultant.

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Cuban Festivals : A Century of Afro-Cuban Culture

Dr. Bettelheim is also editor of CUBAN FESTIVALS: A Century of Afro-Cuban Culture. This valuable book includes the first ever English language translation of Fernando Ortiz's "The Afro-Cuban Festival Day of the Kings," as well as an annotated glossary based on Ortiz's work by Dr. David Brown. Also, an introduction to Ortiz's work by Dr. Jean Stubbs, and two personal recollections of Havana Carnival by Pedro Perez Sarduy. Dr. Judith Bettelheim has written on Santiago de Cuba Carnival in the 1980s and compared it to Carnival during the "special period." She also has a chapter on the celebrations and history of Haitian-Cubans in Oriente Province. Cuban scholars José Millet and Rafael Brea contribute a glossary of popular festivals. The book includes 40 illustrations.

Cuban Festivals : A Century of Afro-Cuban Culture
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Cuban Festivals : An Illustrated Anthology (Garland Reference Library of the Humanities, Vol 1444)
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CV - 2017top

The Arts of Africa, the African Diaspora and the Caribbean
San Francisco State University Faculty Member 1981-2009 (Retired)
Adjunct Professor UCLA 2010-2012

Yale University, History of Art, Ph.D. June 1979
UCLA, Master of Art, 1967-70
Antioch College, Bachelor of Art, 1962-67

2011. Transcultural Pilgrim: Three Decades of Work by José Bedia. co-authors Judith Bettelheim and Janet Berlo, Fowler Museum at UCLA: 216 pp.; 108 illus. bibliography, index.

2005. AfroCuba: Works on Paper, 1968-2003. exhibition catalog (San Francisco: SFSU and the University of Washington Press) 88pp.; 35 color illus.

2001. Cuban Festivals: A Century of Afro-Cuban Culture. author and editor (Kingston and London: Ian Randle Publishers): 220 pp. Illus., glossary, bibliography (revised and expanded).

1993. Cuban Festivals: An Illustrated Anthology. author and editor (New York and London: Garland Publishing, Inc.) 250pp. Illus.; glossary; bibliography.

1988. Caribbean Festival Arts. co-authored by Judith Bettelheim and John Nunley (Seattle: The Saint Louis Art Museum and University of Washington Press) 250 pp.166 illus., glossary, bibliography.

2015 “Performing Religion: Folklore Performance , Carnaval and Festival in Cuba,” in Caribbean Popular Culture: Power, Politics, and Performance, eds. Aaron Kamugish and Yanique Hume, (Kingston: Ian Randle Publishers) pp. 469-482.

2013 “Grupo Antillano, revisited,” in Grupo Antillano, the Art of Afro-Cuba, (Alejandro de la Fuente and the Caguayo Foundation, with the University of Pittsburg Press) pp. 35-48.

2010 “From Masquerade to Fashion and Back,” in The Global African Project, (New York: The Museum of Art and Design) pp. 162-167.

2010 “Espriritismo Altars in Cuba, Puerto Rico and Brazil,” in Latin America in the Black Atlantic, eds. Andrew Apter and Robin Derby, (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing) pp. 295-318.

2008 “Lam’s Caribbean Years: An Intercultural Dialogue” in Wifredo Lam at Miami Art Museum, 2008. pp. 11-21.

2005 "Caribbean Espiritismo (Spiritist) Altars: The Indian and the Congo" in The Art Bulletin, June. Vol. LXXXVII #2 (NY: College Art Association) pp. 312-330.

2001 “Palo Monte Mayombe and its influence on Contemporary Cuban Art”. African Arts. Summer v. xxxiv #2. Pp. 36-49, 94-95.

1999 "Three Transnational Artists: José Bedia, Edouard Duval-Carrié, Keith Morrison", International Review of African American Art vol.15 #3. pp. 43-48.

1997 "José Bedia Reflects on the Song of the Immigrant", in Crónicas Americanas, Obras de José Bedia, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Monterrey, Mexico. pp. 66-81.

1996 "His Essentialism", in Mi Essencialismo: José Bedia, The Douglas Hyde Gallery, Trinity College, Dublin, pp. 3-8.


"Cuban Artists Wifredo Lam and José Bedia: Generations of Intercultural Exchange," Vassar College, Latin American and Latino/a Studies, October 2015

The Haitian Presence in Cuban Festivals: Performing a National Transcript, The John L. Warfield Center for African and African American Studies, University of Texas at Austin, October 2013

"Wifredo Lam in the Caribbean, An Intercultural Dialogue," Miami Art Museum, May 2008

“AfroCuba: Works on Paper,” Lowe Museum, University of Miami, Fla., January 2008

“The Reception of Caribbean Art," co-chair and discussant; College Art Association national meeting, NYC February 2007

“AfroCuba: Aspects of a Revisionist Art History,” Indianapolis Museum of Art, in conjunction with the opening of “AfroCuba: Works on Paper.” February 25, 2007

“José Bedia: Routes/Roots and the Studio,” for the panel “(Re)Claiming Africa in the African Diaspora; 14th Triennial Symposium on African Art, Gainesville, FLA. March 2007

“Haitian-Cubans or Cuban-Haitians, Performance as a Cultural Negotiation for Eastern Cuba’s Immigrant Population,” University of Northern Illinois, Center for Latino and Latin American Studies October, 2007

Tour leader: La Bienal de La Habana 2001, 2003; Festival of Caribbean Culture 2003; Art in Cuba 2008

The University of Iowa; Obermann Center for Advanced Studies Fellowship;" The Arts and Cultural Politics of Carnival," Summer 2005

National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Stipend, 1998

Lecturer to the Rockefeller Fellows participating in the" Caribbean 2000" program at the University of Puerto Rico, March 1998

National Endowment for the Humanities seminar, invited faculty member, "Performance and Text in Caribbean Literature and Art, University of Puerto Rico, 1997

National Endowment for the Humanities, summer seminar: The Plantation Complex, 1993, Johns Hopkins University

National Endowment for the Humanities summer institute: African American Performing Arts 1890-1990; at the American Dance Festival, 1991, Duke University

American Council of Learned Societies, (sabbatical year fellowship) $15,000 for research on Cuban Carnaval (1989-1990)

$19,500 from NEH, NEA, and Rockefeller Foundation grants for my work as co-curator of the exhibition "Caribbean Festival Arts" (through the Saint Louis Art Museum) 1984-1988

Social Science Research Council Dissertation Fellowship: Fieldwork in the Caribbean 1976 and write-up 1977



John NUNLEY and Judith BETTELHEIM, Caribbean Festival Arts, Seattle, University of Washington Press, reviewed by Frank Manning  2/4/2022 : "This book can be approached in terms of its genre, which I will here define as Coffee-Table Anthropology. Oversized, glossy, bound in cloth, and handsomely dustjacketed, it is a book in which the illustrations-161 of them, mostly in full color - hâve the dominant impact. The book is a collector's item which is meant to be displayed and viewed, much like the exhibit of Caribbean festival artifacts that provided the occasion forits publication. The exhibit opened in December 1988 at the St. Louis Art Muséum and is scheduled later to tour other US and Canadian muséums."

Drapetomanía: Grupo Antillano and the Art of Afro-Cuba on view at The 8th Floor in New York  4/17/2014 OnCuba: "Drapetomania is sponsored by the Afro-Latin American Research Institute of Harvard University, with financial support from the Ford Foundation and the Christopher Reynolds Foundation. The exhibition is complemented by the book Grupo Antillano: The Art of Afro-Cuba, edited by De la Fuente, with essays by art critics and historians as Guillermina Ramos Cruz, José Veigas and Judith Bettelheim."

Activating The Past—event and edited volume  5/31/2012 EthnoCuba: "...many of the essays prominently place Cuban history and ethnography within an inter-Atlantic conversation. Thus, for instance, the first chapter, by Stephan Palmié: “Ekpe/Abakuá in Middle Passage: Time, Space and Units of Analysis in African American Historical Anthropology.” There are also Cuba-centered chapters by art historian Judith Bettelheim, “Espiritismo Altars in Puerto Rico and Cuba: The Indian and the Congo,” and Carrie Viarnes, “Muñecas and Memoryscapes: Negotiating Identity and History in Cuban Espiritismo.” Surely, however, the broader value of the volume is in (re)emplacing Cuba within wider currents, histories, and movements."

A new Cuban connection: Lowe show on AfroCuba works is truly groundbreaking  1/21/2008 GG Art: "At the Lowe Art Museum through Feb. 3, AfroCuba is an unusual and extraordinary show -- most of the works are on loan from art institutions and artists in Havana and Santiago de Cuba. The show was curated by art historian Judith Bettelheim, who has written extensively about Caribbean art and culture and done research in Cuba since 1985. Curatorial Assistance Inc. of Pasadena arranged for the exhibit's U.S. tour. It comes to the University of Miami museum from San Francisco State University."

Afro-Cuban Artistry  12/13/2007 Miami New Times: "The Lowe Art Museum lowers the boom on the frantic citywide December art flurry with a pair of roundhouse combinations delivering stunning Afro-Cuban art and a knockout selection of works from one of America’s oldest art schools. “AfroCuba: Works on Paper, 1968-2003” features more than 60 prints and drawings by 26 artists from Havana and Santiago de Cuba, marking the first time these artists have been grouped together in a major exhibit off the island. The groundbreaking show includes a broad range of subject matter and styles that underscore Cuba’s deep African roots, the influence of Afro-Cuban religious imagery on that nation’s culture, and reflections on Cuban politics and race as well as social relations today."

AfroCuba: Works on Paper, 1968-2003. Indianapolis Museum of Art. February 25, 2007-June 3, 2007. Reviewed by Edward M. Puchner  9/1/2007 Museum Anthropology Review: "AfroCuba is of great importance to the people of Cuba because of its constant redefinition. Using the entrance label to cautiously discuss the term, the curator writes that it is “not exclusive in its connotations” and “not an entity based on race.” It is understood as part of all Cuban life, going well beyond the limits of visual arts. AfroCuba extends to a wide range of cultural groups, such as Lucumí, Congo, Ararà, and Carabalí, all identified as distinct within Cuban society. Within them, Bettelheim writes, AfroCuba “is a reality based on a particular shifting set of historical and cultural contributions” made by Cuban artists. The works of each artist shown here are therefore all AfroCuban in how they demonstrate some distinct intersection of Cuban historical experienceand African cultural belief."

Talk about "AfroCuba Through the Artist’s Lens"  2/25/2007 IndyBuzz: "The kaleidoscope of the contemporary Cuban experience--rife with satire, politics, and religion--becomes vivid in the Forefront exhibition, AfroCuba: Works on Paper, 1968-2003. Dr. Judith Bettelheim, professor of art history at San Francisco State University curated this thirty-five year chronicle of prints and drawings in many styles and techniques by twenty-six artists from Havana and Santiago de Cuba. In this talk, Dr. Bettelheim will provide context for viewing these diverse artworks that present the complexity of Cuba’s military and religious ties to Africa and offer vibrant critiques of contemporary race and social relations."

Afrocuba Works on Paper, 1968-2003. Review by Midwest Book Review  12/1/2005 The Free Library: "Bettelheim has put together a gallery of art works by 25 noted younger, contemporary, Cuban artists. The closing section is on Belkis Ayon, who died in 1999. A representative work of each of the artists faces a one-page essay on him or her. Many of the pictured works are from the past year or two. The oldest are from the 1970s. It's an eye-opening catalog displaying the liveliness and imagination in Cuban art works on paper over the past 30 years. One sees that Cuban art has not been retarded by U. S. efforts to ostracize Cuban under the Castro regime; and that as far as its art goes, Cuba reflects the latest in modern and contemporary art with respect to content and style, and in some cases political and social perspective."

March 4 & 5, 2005: International Center for the Arts presents "To Cuba With Love"  2/22/2005 SFSU: "To Cuba, With Love, the inaugural event of the new International Center for the Arts (ICA) at San Francisco State University, highlights a rich array of Cuban cultural tradition, music and visual arts March 4 and March 5 in San Francisco. The program opens with the West Coast AfroCuban All-Stars, an ensemble of nationally and internationally renowned bandleaders and stylists assembled specifically to venerate the inventor of Mambo, Israel "Cachao" Lopez (Friday, March 4 at 8:00 p.m. in the Forum at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts; pre-concert talk at 7:45 p.m. - SOLD OUT). Also on the program, a special guest appearance by Cachao, the ICA's first Marcus Prize winner for Lifetime Achievement. Next, the art exhibition AfroCuba: Works on Paper, 1968-2003 opens on the SFSU campus (Saturday, March 5 at 11:30 a.m.). An all-day event, the opening features music, dancing, film, Cuban food and a special music and video installation."

Cuidado, con respeto  12/1/1995 ICAA - Documents of Latin American and Latino Art: by Judith Bettelheim - "In this short essay on the work of Cuban artist José Bedia, art historian Judith Bettelheim describes the artist as a “transcultural citizen” who “speaks at the intersection of diverse commentaries.” Bettelheim calls Bedia a postmodern artist because he collapses the distinction between “high art” and “popular culture” in his work especially through the integration of Afro-Cuban religious iconography, since he is a practitioner of [santería] Palo Monte. She additionally discusses his appropriation of different elements used as collage. Bettelheim concludes with an analysis of how these elements are seen in a handful of Bedia’s works."


Essay in Grupo Antillano: The Art of Afro-Cuba, Alejandro de la Fuente, editor

Spiritism in Cuba: syncretized spiritism, espiritismo cruzado



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