DRAPETOMANIA

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Galería de Arte Universal, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba / Consejo Nacional de Artes Plásticas, La Habana / 8th Floor Gallery, New York, United States / Museum of the African Diaspora, San Francisco, California, United States / The Ethelbert Cooper Gallery of African & African American Art, Harvard University, Boston, Massachusetts, United States.

April, 2013 - 2015

The exhibition Drapetomanía: Grupo Antillano y the Art of Afro-Cuba, which was presented in Santiago de Cuba and Havana, arrives at Harvard University after having been shown in New York and San Francisco.

Originally exhibited at the Provincial Center of Plastic Arts and Design in Santiago de Cuba (April-May, 2013), where it was described as "one of the best exhibitions of plastic arts in recent years in Santiago de Cuba," Drapetomanía now travels to the Ethelbert Cooper Gallery of African and Afro-American Art at Harvard University after have been exhibited at the Center for the Development of the Visual Arts in Havana, The 8th Floor Gallery in New York and the Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD) in San Francisco.

Drapetomanía pays tribute to Grupo Antillano (1978-1983), a previously forgotten cultural and artistic movement, which proposed a vision of Cuban culture that highlighted the importance of African and Afro-Caribbean elements in the formation of the nation. The exhibition offers a revisionist reading of the so-called “new Cuban art” and highlights the need to include the work of artists who tried to think about the Cuban from their connections with the African diaspora. Grupo Antillano's art is part of a long Caribbean tradition of resistance and cultural affirmation, of that "prodigious effort of self-defense" and of "ideological cimarronearía" that, according to the Haitian poet René Depestre, allowed the enslaved masses of the hemisphere rework their pasts and cultures.

The title of the show, Drapetomania, refers to an alleged illness described in the mid-19th century by a plantation physician in Louisiana. From the Greek drapetes (escape, flee) and mania (madness), the most visible symptom of this curious disease was the irrepressible and pathological tendency of many slaves to flee and be free. In other words, the doctor described maroon as a disease, a disease, a deviation from the natural order, an expression of the indomitable savagery of blacks.

Curated by historian Alejandro de la Fuente, professor at Harvard University, the Drapetomanía exhibition is complemented by the book Grupo Antillano: el arte de Afro-Cuba, edited by the curator of the exhibition, with essays by art critics and historians like Guillermina Ramos Cruz, José Veigas and Judith Bettelheim. The exhibition includes works by Grupo Antillano artists (Esteban Ayala, Rogelio Rodríguez Cobas, Manuel Couceiro, Herminio Escalona, Ever Fonseca, Ramón Haiti, Adelaida Herrera, Arnaldo Rodríguez Larrinaga, Oscar Rodríguez Lasseria, Alberto Lescay, Manuel Mendive, Leonel Morales, Clara Morera, Miguel Ocejo, Rafael Queneditt and Julia Valdés) and a group of contemporary artists who have shown in their work similar concerns to those articulated by Grupo Antillano (Belkis Ayón, Bedia, Choco, Diago, Esquivel, Marta María Pérez Bravo, Montalván, Olazábal, Douglas Pérez, Peña, Elio Rodríguez and Leandro Soto). In other words, Drapetomanía proposes a new genealogy in Cuban plastic arts that connects creators from generations and diverse artistic trajectories through their shared attention to issues such as race, identity, and the meanings of the Cuban.

The show will be exhibited at Harvard from January 29 to the end of May of this year.


Information provided by Alejandro de la Fuente, Curator.