Challenging the perception that Cubans lack artistic freedom

Posted: 22-Apr-16 10:22

Responding to an activist's rally for freedom of expression in Cuba, an editorial aims to reveal examples that Cubans are already experiencing rich and varied freedom when it comes to the arts. From music to visual creations, the editorial points out a variety of ways the nation is accepting of a diverse and creative arts scene. There's never been a better time for art lovers the world over to come check out the fine work of inspired Cuban artists.

Challenging the perception that Cubans lack artistic freedom

A recent editorial, printed in the online edition of The Guardian, aims to dispel preconceived notions that Cuba limits access to artistic freedom. In "Cuba’s support for its arts should make us weep with envy", Professor Helen Colley and Dr. Doreen Weppler-Grogran dismiss arguments made by a Havana artist and activist while throwing in some encouraging words for those who want to experience the Cuban arts scene during a trip to the island. Art fans the world over will find in Cuba an artistic world that stands out for its originality, unique flair and colourful ingenuity.

The editorial is in response to an article written by author Hannah Ellis-Petersen and also published in The Guardian on 10th April. Titled "The woman trying to change Cuba’s cultural landscape- and stay out of jail", it details the plight of Havana-based Cuban artist Tania Bruguera who, according to Ellis-Peterson, has been jailed on numerous occasions for her ongoing activism. Despite this, Ellis-Peterson says Brugera is forging ahead with a fundraising campaign to open the Institute of Art Activism, dubbed the very first “safe haven for freedom of expression” in the country.

Bruguera told The Guardian that Cubans need a place to “freely deliberate” the country’s future. The artist claimed they’ve been conditioned to self-censorship and political apathy, repressed politically and culturally for 57 years. However, the Colley and Weppler-Grogran counterpart dispute this claim by saying this isn’t so, least of all in more recent times when the Cuban government has been slowly opening up both politically and economically. In the original article, Ellis-Peterson writes that Cuban leaders ban any films or artwork that tarnish the country’s image.

The 13th April editorial, however, disputes the notion that Cubans lack access to artistic freedom. Authors Colley and Weppler-Grogan point to Cuba’s free and “rigorous arts education system” and claim those who go on holidays to Cuba can easily see a varied culture that expands into political and social issues. In everything from paintings, plays, films, comedy and music, visitors can see Cubans’ original and uncensored works of art.

The article adds that Cuba’s “support for the arts would make educators in the UK weep with envy". In addition, the editorial brings up examples of Cuban artists to prove its point, including the music of X-Alfonso, Gente de Zona and Chucho Valdes, visual artists Rene Francisco, and Lazaro Saavedra and filmmakers such as Pavel Giroud, Fernando Perez and Tomas Gutierrez Alea.

Furthermore, the article refutes the lack of artistic freedom claim by arguing that it’s not logical that these artists would have been able to succeed as they have with the alleged “57 years of cultural repression”. The editorial concludes by making the point that 30 Cuban artists will be in London this October for "Presente! Contemporary Art from Cuba", a showcase of the island’s rich visual arts and a reflection of the artistic creativity Cuban artists enjoy.

Beyond polarising views and controversial politics, Cuba is, above all; a culturally and historically rich destination that has much to offer visitors in the way of arts. It’s a place where art is found virtually everywhere, you can’t escape it and you don’t have to look for it either; it’ll simply find you wherever you are. It’s an excellent destination for avid travellers with a thirst for authentic culture and amazing art.


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