Roberto Diago: “I am my race, my history”

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Sandra Abd’Allah (Negra cubana tenía que ser) writes about Cuban visual artist Juan Roberto Diago and his exhibition “Diago: The Pasts of this Afro-Cuban Present,” a retrospective curated by Alejandro de La Fuente at Harvard University [see previous post Art Exhibition–Diago: The Pasts of this Afro-Cuban Present/]. Here are excerpts from the translated article from OnCuba magazine:

He is recalled in Cuba for his visual work and also for his appearance in the documentary Raza (Erick Corvalán, 2008), where he expresses his ideas about the representation of black bodies in the media. The artist has continued his work abroad and following his footsteps we found this exhibition inaugurated last February 2 in the Ethelbert Cooper Gallery of African and Afro-American Art, where it will remain open until next May.

How did this opportunity come up to exhibit in Harvard University?  The work that the institution carries out has a lot to do with my discourse as an artist, and Henry Luis Gates as well as Alejandro de La Fuente, directors of Harvard’s Afro-Latin American Research Institute, knew of my work. Alejandro has had important exhibitions in this field like “Queloides y Drapetomania,”in which I have been present, until one day we decided to start the project and here’s the exhibition and the book.

Which are the theme cores of the display? The exhibition doesn’t have a core theme. They are works from different stages that almost always narrate conflict, resistance, nonconformity, hope. One can see the use of alternative materials since the start of 1993 up to 2015, but Alejandro also had his own vision about my work and some of the themes I have dealt with, such as history, and that is reflected in the exhibition. [. . .]

Do you plan to take to Cuba “Diago: The Pasts of this Afro-Cuban Present”? Yes, I would like to. It would be like a reencounter, “the return to the country of birth” where all those pieces that are in different places of the world were made.

If you were given the opportunity to choose a phrase that incites persons, especially Cubans and black, to visit this exhibition, what would you say to them?  I would say like in one of my works: I am my race, my history, love.

For full article and interview, see http://oncubamagazine.com/culture/roberto-diago-i-am-my-race-my-history/

See the original article (in Spanish) at https://negracubanateniaqueser.com/2017/02/23/roberto-diago-yo-soy-mi-raza-mi-historia/

Also see previous posts https://repeatingislands.com/2017/02/07/shadows-of-cubas-past/ and https://repeatingislands.com/2017/02/09/interview-juan-roberto-diago-and-alejandro-de-la-fuente/

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