“The Story Belongs to the One Telling It”

By Yanelys Nunez Leyva

By Duvier del Dago

HAVANA TIMES — “Now, everybody wants to touch on the subject of the US,” a fellow artist notes who has also felt inclined to deal with this subject in one of his most recent and first art performance, while we walk through the Duvier del Dago exhibition in the sterile Artis 18 gallery.

“It’s because there’s no way of isolating yourself from it,” responds a colleague. The heart of the issue lies in the position you take when you deal with this subject.” He finishes and goes off to look for a glass of Cuba libre, before the bibijaguas[1] leave the tray completely empty.

Infused with a bittersweet history made up of ups and downs and linked to the current landscape full of uncertainty and acceptable encounters (and reencounters), many Cuban artists who live in Havana – those who I’m in contact with, sharing our work and information – can’t do anything more than contemplate this dense history and confront their present.

The second part of “The Story Belongs to the One Telling It” gives Duvier the opportunity to do just that. Using the female form to represent the Republic, established by magazine covers after May 20th 1902, which would then be responsible for structuring and socializing this symbol, just like their progressive morphological changes; Duvier del Dago provides a new context for an icon that was completely suppressed in the post revolutionary mindset, even when this icon was used on various occasions to criticize the corrupt actions of the Neo-colonial era.

Recreating the inside of a home, using some of the more common domestic objects or spaces, like windows, drawing tables, children’s room – including a crib – sofa, wall rack, etc. Duvier, without subtleties and facades, builds a new habitat for the seduced and seducing Cuban Republic. In his work, the woman wearing the liberty cap gets ready to receive the mythical “enemy” as a prostitute/port; she becomes a tender lover, and revels in her frivolity which comes so easily to her.

Por Duvier del Dago

The very personal perception of what could happen in Cuba afterwards: after the Freedom of the 5 Cuban heroes, after Pope Francisco and Obama’s visits, after the Chanel runway, after filming the Fast & furious… are all examined in this compilation of exquisitely drawn pictures.

However, whilst I’m writing, I realize that this exhibition has left me confused. I don’t know whether to classify it as a “dignified” project worthy of some good censorship; or if it asks us to repeat the old ideology to some point, which establishes opposing characters in a vertical hierarchy.  What I am certain of, however, is that this project raises the standard for what is allowed by the “politically sensitive” when dealing with the Cuba vs. USA issue, as it denounces from this point onwards, in the government’s face, the terrible mark of a political standing which is culturally mistaken.

It’s almost 10 pm the night of the opening, there’s only a few of us left at the gallery and a friend who’s just beginning in the art world, shows us a piece of work that will have the public space as it’s gallery: A thousand prints of the famous photo of the US marine who tried to dishonor Jose Marti’s picture, accompanied by a reggaeton-style footnote: “I forgive but I never forget,”; will cover Havana’s walls as a great reminder over the next few days.

And while we were debating what ordinary people’s reactions and empathy would be towards this work, we didn’t realize at the moment that this initiative joins another group of concerns we have about Cuba’s future.

You can see Duvier del Dago’s exhibition at the Artis 18 gallery located on calle 7ma esquina 18. Playa. La Habana until August 26.   

[1] Literally meaning cutter ants, this is one of the names we’ve given to people who go to exhibition openings with the ulterior motive of trying to drink as much rum as possible on the Havana art scene. Another name we use for these people is eventologo.

Yanelys Nuñez

Yanelys Nuñez Leyva: Writing is to expose oneself, undress before the inquisitive eyes of all. I like to write, not because I have developed a real fondness for nudity, but because I love composing words, thinking of stories, phrases that touch, images that provoke different feelings. Here I have a place to talk about art, life, me. In the end, feeling good about what you do is what matters; either with or without clothing.

2 thoughts on ““The Story Belongs to the One Telling It”

  • Mr. John Goodrich would squirm with delight at reading the name – Chomsky – for he regards Noam Chomsky as the ultimate authority upon everything from cheese production to soothsaying!

  • “bibijaguas” = eventologo. jaja I hadn’t heard that one. May Cubans never lose their critical sense of humor to comment on their conditions. Also, thank you for the reference to the U.S. Marine desecrating the Marti statue. I’m chagrined to admit that, notwithstanding my extensive time in and study of Cuba, I had somehow never heard of/seen this disgraceful image. I did a search and found this, to get readers up to speed: https://sylverblaque.wordpress.com/2012/06/08/diary-of-an-american-girls-journeys-to-the-forbidden-land-excerpt-21/
    Keep up the good work.

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