The Abakuá (Caribalis, Ñañigos)

Images by Ruddy,

Notes by Gethin James. Click Thumbnails in numerical order to follow text.

AbakuŠ Icon by Ruddy

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AbakuŠ Icon by Ruddy

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AbakuŠ Icon by Ruddy

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AbakuŠ Icon by Ruddy

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AbakuŠ Icon by Ruddy

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AbakuŠ Icon by Ruddy

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In differentiating between Los Negros Curros and the Ñañigos or Abakuá, Fernando Ortíz* has described the latter in this way:

"These were originally African negroes who, in the first third of the nineteenth century, came from West Africa, above all from the Efik and Calabrian territories and founded in Regla, on the Bay of Havana, male-only secret societies. These were of a defensive nature, much given to quarrels between the groups and sects but acting united in initiations involving blood-oaths, religious ceremonies, animal sacrifices, songs, drum-sessions, funerals and other cryptic rites. These fraternities or guilds were known collectively as Ñañiguismo in Cuba and, by their escobios or members, as Abakuá, They continued with their mysteries and languages in Cuba as in Africa..."

"...the Ñañigos (Abakuá) can not be seen as part of Cuban Santeria, and much less like Afro-Haitian Vodú, nor like the Afro-Brazilian Macumba (Candomblé) ...These are religious groups of a general character of men, women and priests, with theologies, exclusive rites, and litergies—transcultural survivors of Africa.. The Ñañigos have esoteric rites of a religious type but they do not properly constitute a religion nor do they exercise the functions of collective magic."

*Los Negros Curros. Fernando Ortíz. Ed. Ciencias Sociales. Havana: 1995 (Citation trans. Gethin James)

Classic recording: Obba Llu, Abacuá. Arr. A. Quesada Rosel 5'10 (La Musique des Dieux CD ASPIC Edition 1998)

(Notes compiled by Gethin James)