Spring 2012 - Queloides: Race and Racism in Cuban Contemporary Art
Queloides is an art exhibit on the persistence of racism and racial discrimination in contemporary Cuba and elsewhere in the world. Despite the social transformations implemented by the Cuban revolutionary government since the early 1960s, racism continues to be a deep wound in Cuban society, one that generates countless social and cultural scars. Racist attitudes, ideas and behaviors have gained strength in Cuban society during the last two decades, during the deep crisis known as "The Special Period," which followed the collapse of the Soviet Union. As the Cuban economy became dollarized and competition for scarce jobs and resources intensified, racial discrimination and racial inequality increased. White Cubans began to use racist arguments to deny blacks' access to the most attractive sectors of the economy (such as tourism), those in which it was possible to earn dollars or other hard currencies.
Queloides is the emphatic protest of a group of visual artists against the resurgence of racism in the island. It is the statement of a generation of artists who grew up and was educated in an environment that was, to no small degree, racially-egalitarian and that deteriorated dramatically in the 1990s. This is the first time in post-revolutionary Cuba that the word ‘racism’ has appeared in the title of an exhibition.
The exhibit builds on two previous exhibits with the same name that were done in Havana in 1997 and 1999. In other words,Queloides is a long-term cultural project in which numerous intellectuals and artists from Cuba have participated. Queloides has never been conceived as a "black project" or a project “for blacks.” On the contrary, it represents the assertion by a multiracial group of artists and intellectuals that racial equality and inclusion are key to what it means to be Cuban. From the first edition of Queloides, there have been supporters and participants in this project who do not self identify as blacks, ormestizos, or mulattoes. For the first time, the project is shown outside Cuba: after all, racism and racial discrimination are global problems.
The artists of Queloides deal with issues of race and racism in different ways. All of their work, however, offers a revisionist and critical reading of the history of Cuba, a reading that highlights the contributions of the Africans and their descendants to the formation of the Americas in general, and the Cuban nation in particular. Their Cuba is not the harmonious and fraternal Cuba portrayed in official national narratives, but a nation built on violence, slavery, rape, and the unbearable stench of the slave ships. It is a Cuba where colonial legacies remain alive, feeding discrimination and exclusion.
Queloides has been exhibited at the Centro de CulturaContemporánea Wifredo Lam (Havana, April 16-May 31, 2010), the Mattress Factory museum, Pittsburgh (October 15, 2010-February 27, 2011), and The 8th Floor, New York City (April 12-July 14, 2011).
Links to the exhibit:
Links to selected reviews and articles on Queloides:
Alejandro de la Fuente, editor. Queloides: Race and Racism in Cuban Contemporary Art (MF, 2011)