Painting by Cuban artist donated to WWU

Western Washington University students AnaMae Rood, left, and Ashley Nimocks study in Wilson Library near a painting recently donated by English professor Rosanne Kanhai in honor of her late husband, Paul Goslow. The painting, "El Secreto del Pez," is by Cuban artist Salvador Gonzalez Escalona. Photo by Dylan Koutsky | Communications and Marketing intern

English professor Rosanne Kanhai speaks at a ceremony to unveil the painting she donated to the university in honor of her late husband, Paul Gaslow. Flanking Kanhai are James Loucky, a professor of anthropology at WWU (on Kanhai's right), and Larry Estrada, an associate professor at Western's Fairhaven College of Interdisciplinary Studies (on Kanhai's left). Photo by Matthew Anderson | WWU Communications and Marketing

English professor Rosanne Kanhai poses next to the painting she donated to the university in honor of her late husband, Paul Gaslow. Photo by Matthew Anderson | WWU Communications and Marketing

Sarah Clark-Langager, director of the Western Gallery, speaks at a ceremony to unveil a painting by Cuban artist Salvador Gonzalez Escalona, donated by to Western by English professor Rosanne Kanhai. Photo by Matthew Anderson | WWU Communications and Marketing

Matthew Anderson
Western Today editor

A painting by famed Cuban artist Salvador Gonzalez Escalona now hangs in Wilson Library, the gift of English professor Rosanne Kanhai in honor of her late husband, Paul Goslow. Goslow, a Western alumnus, purchased the painting in 2004 when he accompanied Kanhai and a group of WWU students to Cuba.

Goslow always was a bigger fan of the painting than Kanhai, she says, and she was even somewhat intimidated by the painting's foreboding qualities.

"But when Paul stopped breathing, the painting lost its energy," she says. "I had to do something with it to make it come alive again."

Depicted in the painting is Secreto Secto de Abakua, a male secret society developed in Nigeria in the mid-19th century. The painting is a representation of the "secret" invested in the fish, named Tanze, known for its trickster qualities. The painting depicts the mythological fish dominating a stark, sometimes lurid, Caribbean beach-scape.

For Kanhai, the painting represents a gateway to Africa for those removed from their ancenstral homes on that continent.

"Paintings such as this help us to make that journey back through the Middle Passage in a psychological, emotional, spiritual way," she says.

The painting is part of the mural Secreto Secto de Abukua, constructed in Salvador's studio in Havana's Callejon de Hamel and exhibited in various locations throughout the world. Callejon de Hamel is a gathering place for Santeria-influenced invocations, drumming and dancing on Sundays. The street, a former slum near the University of Havana, has been transformed over the years into an Afro-Cuban center.