« Back

By admin

Date: 04-01-2014


Here is a portrait of the great Yusef Lateef ( 9th October 1920 - 23 December 2013 ) hand painted by Abdul Mati.


Article by Rob Young in The Wire 1998

IN 1960, AN artist called Abdul Mati sent a copy of a portrait he had made of jazz saxophonist Yusef Lateef to the musician himself. Lateef, a Muslim, liked the painting—Lateef's bald pate almost swamped by a sea of encroaching flora—and sensed a kinship: he wrote back with a salutation to his "Dear Bro", and offers of record sleeves in the future. Abdul Mati approached Lateef one evening after a gig at New York's Five Spot, but when Lateef saw that this 'Abdul' was white, he turned away without a word.

Abdul Mati didn't let this trouble him unduly. Mati Klarwein—the name he reverted to after this incident, and which was given him by his German parents—has always been acutely sensitive to the age-old standoffs between black and white, Muslim and Christian, science and art, nature and technology. "My experience with Yusef Lateef was not 'unfortunate', as you say," he says, in philosophical mode, at his home in Mallorca. "It was very indicative of the time when 'black' had to become 'beautiful'—because it was!—and had to find its own identity and cautiously dig into its African past for that purpose. Going back to the animistic true past was too much of a jump, so they settled for Islam, being another facet of monotheism, and a provocative contrast to the Gothic Christianity that was and is still oppressively segregating them with its smug self-righteous patronising attitude."

... http://www.jonhassell.com/mati.html