Can Christianity embrace decolonization? This is a historical question that challenges processes of cultural, social, and religious revision on all scales over the past fifty years, given that Christian identity through churches has been one of the main tools of the colonization system in the Americas and Africa. However, despite the turbulence that human history offers us, faith in its purest form has nothing to do with political regimes but is directly related to the mechanisms of transcending the body between the psyche and spirituality.
Thus, it is through the sensitivity that drives us in what we believe that Bertô’s research takes its sharp starting point. Before considering modern and contemporary coloniality, the artist delves into biblical writings after claiming the Bible as a historical document to outline a logic of testimony of the experience of racialized peoples in a time before America as an African diaspora. Through black theology, the aim is to dissociate Christian faith from any mechanism of oppression that runs through it because Jesus primarily symbolizes care for the oppressed. In short, black theology allows for a different perspective on Christianity from the essence that constructs it, especially when applied confrontationally to the historical contexts of contemporaneity. After discussing prejudice, xenophobia, and oppression through the book of Exodus in the Old Testament, along with works that recounted the chronology of the Hebrew peoples’ immigration to the promised land, with Moses’ crossing of the Red Sea, Bertô now develops another intersectional chapter - between writing and painting - of the Bible in ode to the twelve little prophets.
Using linen as a surface in reference to the antiquity preceding Christ, oil paint manifests through gesture, in a hybrid manner between abstract and figurative. With generous and dancing brushstrokes on the canvas, lines are imprinted within textures that reveal movement. The stories of Joel, Habakkuk, Amos, Malachi, Zechariah, Zephaniah, Haggai, Nahum, Jonah, Hosea, Obadiah, and Micah are interpreted through the addition of elements that become iconographic symbols of the visual expression of these narratives, breaking the literal-landscape pact of the representation of Christianity in art history and including figures as a guidance system to understand the anecdotes–a method that characterizes Bertô’s artistic identity by making the influence of cinema perceptible in his compositions due to a photographic gaze on imagination and drawing studies that transform into storyboards before becoming paintings. In ‘when they cry in their beds,’ Hosea’s narrative of the unquenchable love of the Eternal who wept at Israel’s alienation is represented by two beds and onomatopoeic writings, while in ‘there were four horns’ - Zechariah’s narrative of the restoration of the temple and the prophecy of future messianic times is represented by four horns.
The palette is vibrant, ranging from almost fluorescent saturated tones to soft tones with dark accents, such as navy, purple, and phthalo green, bringing an aesthetic of lightness to the works that mostly evoke challenging times between chaos and calamity. The solidly used tones allow for an understanding of light and shadow from the dimension of the painting itself, as monochromatic layers overlap and thus employ meticulous attention to the subtle lines of facial expressions that guide the brushes boldly, opening new pathways for the redefinition of imaginaries, granting the artist the right to subjectivity beyond their identity stigmatizations.
— Igi Lola Ayedun