This exhibition pays tribute to the cultural and artistic movement Grupo Antillano which, between 1978 and 1983, has offered a vision of the Cuban culture which highlighted the importance of African and Afro-Caribbean elements in the formation of the Cuban nation. In response to those who, in the seventies, presented the Santeria or other Afro-Cuban religious and cultural practices like primitive or regressive, the Grupo Antillano has bravely put in evidence the centrality of African cultures in the national culture. For the artists of Grupo Antillano, Africa and the Caribbean were not dead or inert influences, but are many vital influences which would continue to define the Cuban being.
The art of Grupo Antillano is part of a long Caribbean tradition of cultural resistance and affirmation, of creation of its own spaces and identities. It is a beautiful example of this “prodigious effort of self-defense” and of “ideological brownery” which, according to René Depestre, have allowed the enslaved masses to re-elaborate their past and cultures.
In the mid-20th century, a doctor in the plantations in the South of the USA described a disease common to the slaves: the drapetomania. From the Greek drapetes (to escape, to run away) and mania (craziness), the most visible symptom of this strange disease was the irrepressible and pathological tendency of numerous slaves to run to be free. The doctor thus described escape like suffering, like a deviance from natural order, an expression of the wild indomitable characteristic of Blacks.
It is only thanks to the creativity and ingenuity of various Caribbean thinkers and artists- like those who participate to this exhibition- that this old-fashioned aberration has transformed into a functional gesture. It is thanks to the work of thinkers and artists like those linked to the Grupo Antillano that we can today celebrate a Caribbean and Cimarron cubanity. What the doctor had categorized as a disorder has transformed into the cornerstone of a new order, a utopia of shared spaces and identities. Unfortunately, as would say the great Martiniquan poet Edouard Glissant, “the old brownery of identities…is again working for us”. Unfortunately we have this history, our history, the history the Groupe Antillano strives to reconstruct and to retell.
Participating artists : Ayala / Belkis Ayon/ Bedia / Choco/ Cobas / Couceiro / Diago / Escalona / Alexis Esquivel / Ever Fonseca / Haiti / Larrinaga / Lasseria / Lescay / Marta Maria /Mendive / Montalvan / Leonel Morales / Clara Morera / Ocejo / Olazabal / Queneditt / Douglas Perez / Rene Peña / Elio Rodriguez / Leandro Soto / Julia Valdes
Centro Provincial de Artes Plásticas y Diseño. Calle 1ra y M. Ampliación de Terrazas, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.
Exhibition on view from April 5, 2013.
Headline picture’s credits: Invitation © Drapetomania