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August 2014  

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Belonging is also the direction of the gaze*


When I thought about the theme of belonging, I could not help but evoke the experience I had in Havana. In a world like Cuba, where it is assumed that you cannot say many things that are felt, they have art that is right there saying it. There is art everywhere, in every corner, and it’s also a city that’s falling apart. This piece is inspired by the photographs I took in Cuba and other Cuban artists whom I have studied.

What I saw there was that the past, that’s what the old woman represents, is a past that is looking back to a time that will never exist again, as all past is. She is completely disconnected from current reality. Although that is the generation that fought for the Revolution, it is a generation completely disenchanted with the present and obsessed with what Cuba was at that time. And that is precisely their identity. She is wrapped in the dream of that city, although that past is also a farce, and in representations of Yoruba gods and spirits that are such an essential part of Cuban identity; but that generation, to some extent, has disregarded it and had prejudices about it. But she is grayer and does not accept what Cuba really is.


The woman on the other side of the painting is a Cuban woman from now, and that is a generation that fully ignores and does not give any importance to the Cuba of the past that the old woman idealizes. She did not live that, she has lived all that has happened after the Revolution, the needs, the cultural
change. What I saw of this generation is that they are people who are also uprooted from Cuba, they are barely surviving. They live a disillusioned life. Her t-shirt has a symbol of some corporation or company, because, I think, these are people who look outwards, they want to have things, money, opportunities, commerce, although it is exploitation. They do not have that sense of belonging to Cuba, like the generation of the old woman had.


And in the center is The Child. The child is getting something that has light, from a character that for me represents Belkis Ayon, because I think that both her life and her art symbolize what that generation lived. Her art speaks about religious representation and what it feels to be Cuban, what it feels to be part of that island, and she, according to me, is precisely the spirit of belonging, of knowing oneself to be part of something. She is giving the chance to the new generation, whose future we do not know, to take back Cuba, and perhaps in the future integrate beautiful things, to include what it means to be Latin American, to be Caribbean, which is to be a person who has a history that we all share, of multiculturalism, of exploitation, of colonialism. Belkis Ayon is giving that to the child. And let’s see what the child does with it. Because that child receives openly, innocently, not knowing what the child is agreeing to, like accepting a fruit.

* * *


Belonging is a work in progress, it is being through time and realities. It is presences and absences. The texts of this number try to approach the uncertainty of who we are and what we are not. They approach these histories that hover around us, knowing and not knowing where they come from and where they go and what we do with them.


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* Blanca Catalina García created the cover of this number and we asked her to tell us a little about its interpretation. Original in Spanish. Translated by Edith Beltrán Mínehan and David Korfhagen.


Blanca Catalina García was born in Chile and lived and grew up in both the United States and Chile. She likes everything artistic: fashion, photography, culture. You can find her at http://web.stagram.com/n/blancacata.



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