Ana Mendieta and the politics of The Venus Negra

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The theorizations by some early feminists of the affiliation between Earth and woman, the 'archetype of the Great Goddess', and the universal female', are today regarded with embarrassment as essentializing, ultimately disempowering gestures. This article examines a 1981 project by Cuban-born artist Ana Mendieta for the feminist art journal Heresies. In this project she combines a photograph of one of her own earthworks with her translation of the nineteenth-century Cuban legend The Venus Negra. By investigating this legend in the context of nineteenth-century Cuban nationalism, and this earthwork in terms of twentieth-century US/Latino politics, this article argues that the Earth is not necessarily the essential category it appears to be. It claims that the discursive deployment of the Earth - the nation's primitive Other - subverts ideologies of the nation and contributes to its performative renegotiation. Further, it suggests that, in using this legend to disrupt the hegemonic construction of nation, both the legend's authors and its contemporary translator play with the performativity of both gender and race.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)31-50
Number of pages20
JournalCultural Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1998


  • Ana Mendieta
  • Art history
  • Cuban folklore
  • Feminism
  • Nationalism
  • Performance studies


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