Fabelo’s Cockroaches

Survival by Roberto Favelo at the Havana 2009 Biennial, photo: Caridad
Survival by Roberto Favelo at the Havana 2009 Biennial, photo: Caridad

By Osmel Almaguer

The Havana Art Biennial, which first kicked off in 1991, has been a tremendous event for visual arts in our country, welcoming renowned artists from around the globe.

The foreign public has shown an interest for this event, with its tendency in recent years to spill out into the streets. Yet in holding this art fest, another type of cultural exchange occurs. It’s not only one of a cross-cultural nature, but of feedback in which we all come out winners.

The city has become a huge gallery. In the last few Biennials, assemblies and installations could be found in parks, on corners, mounted on walls and set up on sidewalks. Now art is not something only for museums or high society, but something more truly “of the people” – folks like me.

The works are appreciated by people going to and from work, those taking strolls with their families or people taking a look from their balconies.

With particular amazement, and no less admiration, I’ve contemplated the work Survival, by Roberto Fabelo. In it can be appreciated the indications of artistic and spiritual consolidation, uniquely committed to life’s experiences and contemplations.

Survival by Roberto Favelo at the Havana 2009 Biennial, photo: Caridad
Survival by Roberto Favelo at the Havana 2009 Biennial, photo: Caridad

Enormous cockroaches with human heads climb out across the polished surfaces of the Museum of Cuban Art. Some have fallen, while others seem to have made it to their destination: the roof, or maybe the sky. In any case, this all caused a strange repulsion in me, perhaps because they’re showing us something about ourselves.

The roaches are fleeing from catastrophe, beings whose nature makes them resistant to the most potent bombs, and are the hands down favorites of the next world war. They have now sprung from the artist’s imagination-in three dimensions-to show us what you can’t see and what we pretend not to know.

Could it be that the author’s intent is to enter into dialogue with Gregor Samsa, the well-known main character in Kafka’s Metamorphosis? What is certain is that one hears the pedestrian-spectators comparing the faces of these Blattodeans to some acquaintance, neighbor or co-worker of theirs.

On one of the occasions when I passed by the building with my friend Jorge, we agreed-with irony and complicity-to put the faces of our bosses on the heads of those insects, at least with Photoshop.

Editors note: The Havana Biennial continues through April 30th at venues in the Vedado District, Old Havana and at the San Carlos de la Cabaña Fortress.


Osmel Almaguer:Until recently I would to identify myself as a poet, a cultural promoter and a university student. Now that my notions on poetry have changed slightly, that I got a new job, and that I have finished my studies, I’m forced to ask myself: Am I a different person? In our introductions, we usually mention our social status instead of looking within ourselves for those characteristics that define us as unique and special. The fact that I’m scared of spiders, that I’ve never learned to dance, that I get upset over the simplest things, that culminating moments excite me, that I’m a perfectionist, composed but impulsive, childish but antiquated: these are clues that lead to who I truly am.

3 thoughts on “<em>Fabelo’s Cockroaches</em>

  • And then there’s that movie about the mutated ants which take over an entire Florida county — even forcing the humans to their will with mind-altering “royal jelly” which the people line up for..!

    Great art.

  • I wonder if Roberto Fabelo has ever seen the romantic comedy “Joe’s Apartment, ” about a young fellow from the Mid-West who arrives in New York and somehow has the great fortune of moving into a rent-controlled apartment, albeit one which already is occupied– by tens-of-thousands of roaches! At first Joe wants to exterminate them, but then both Joe and the roaches cooperate saving his building and liberating the neighborhood from evil real estate developers. At the same time, the roaches also help Joe win the hand of his girlfriend. Enjoyed the film much more than Kafka’s neurotic tale. Fabelo’s oversized roaches appeal to my aesthetic sense. BTW, these giant cockroaches also remind me of a certain 1950’s sci-fi film, “Them,” about a colony of ants which, thanks to atomic bomb testing in the Nevada desert, mutate into creatures the size of Sherman Tanks, then descend on–where else–Los Angeles!

  • Amazing, i am totally impreseed and happy when my friends and fam were invited to this museum..i am on a mission to seek info about how i might get more Cubans interested. Where there ia a will there is a way. i am committed to exposing more people to this magnificient place of knowledge. How can we meet is there a way for you and i to speak or exchange ideas? i have a huge fam here in Cuba mostly in Santiago and Matanzas however, am sure that with planning that we can connect.

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