When the Cuban printmaker Belkis Ayón was invited to exhibit at Biennale Arte 1993, Cuba was in a severe economic depression spurred by the collapse of the Soviet bloc. Ayón, determined to fly to Italy, but left with limited means for the twenty-mile trip to the Havana airport, headed out by bicycle ahead of her father, who carried her work on his own bike. Lagging behind, he didn’t make it to the airport in time, but astoundingly, the print arrived in Venice several days later, with the help of an Italian woman who happened to be traveling from Cuba to Milan. Her work was created using the printmaking technique collography, a collage-like approach in which heterogenous materials are amassed on a plate to create a composition, allowing for a vast range of tones, textures, and forms; in Ayón’s able hands, the subtle gradations of blacks, whites, and greys takes on a magical, redolent weight. Although a self-declared atheist, Ayón dedicated her life’s work to the codes, symbols, and tales of Abakuá, a secret Afro-Cuban fraternal society whose foundational myth is based on a woman’s act of betrayal. Throughout her oeuvre, Sikán, the princess typically depicted with no facial features but her eyes, is imagined in various religious scenes culled from Judeo-Christian scripture, as well as in mysterious scenarios redolent of Ayón’s life – one belonging to a real Afro-Cuban woman at the end of the millennium, occupied by her own interior dramas.