MF Exhibitions

Queloides: Race and Racism in Cuban Contemporary Art curator Alejandro De La Fuente

October 15, 2010 - February 27, 2011
Queloides is an art exhibit on the persistence of racism and radical 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 economic crisis known as "The Special Period," which followed the collapse of the Soviet Union. As the Cuban economy became dependent on foreign currency 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 hard currencies.

Queloides is the emphatic protest of a group of visual artists against the resurgence of racism on the island. It is the statement of a generation of artists who grew up and were educated in an environment that was, to no small degree, racially egalitarian and that deteriorated dramatically in the 1990s. The exhibit builds on two previous shows with the same name that were exhibited 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 supportors and participants in this project who do not self-identify as blacks, or mestizos, or mulattoes. This is the first time the project has been 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. However, all of their work 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 offical 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. Some of the artists in the exhibit mock racist stereotypes (Arenas) and the persistent exclusion of blacks from national history and structures of power (Esquivel). Others proclaim blacks' humanity (Peña), stand against a Western culture that transforms blacks into "others," subjects of scientific study and folklore (Mariño, Pérez, Alvarez), search into the religious influences that sustain Cuban culture (Ayón, Pérez-Bravo, Toirac and Marrero) or celebrate a Cuba that is black (Rodríguez), a Cuba that is bitterly sweet (Campos-Pons), a Cuba marked by the marginality of its people of African descent (Diago).

-Alejandro de la Fuente, Co-Curator of "Queloides"
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