By Vicente Morín Aguado
HAVANA TIMES – Identifying as she/her, Nonardo Perea speaks with total ease. In Cuba, she suffered repression on two fronts, for being a political dissident and a homosexual. She is a member of the San Isidro Movement in Havana, affiliated with independent art, outside of state control, against censorship and human discrimination.
Paraphrasing one of his more high-impact audiovisual projects, from a white cloud that only art can create, if I’m not En la cama con Nonardo (In bed with Nonardo), at least I’m in his room:
HT: Why are you living in Spain. Is Cuba not the right place for your art?
I was a crazy woman in my country, rejected for talking about homosexuality, which continues to be a taboo subject, not only in society, but also on an institutional level. My work as a writer and artist was never given coverage, there. There was somebody who was out to stunt my growth. In spite of several literary awards, I was silenced because I wrote homoerotic stories on the island.
I never thought about leaving Cuba, I had several opportunities to travel abroad and I never left for good until I could no longer find any other alternative. If I had returned, I would have had to give in to State Security’s demands and collaborate as an informer, which is what they were asking me to do. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to do that, I couldn’t betray the people who I believe are fighting for a just cause. The same cause I myself am fighting for.
HT: Not that long after arriving in Madrid, you met an enemy called Covid-19. Advantages or disadvantages in your case?
“Confinement is not difficult for me, because in Cuba without having a pandemic I had my period of isolation, where I voluntarily got away from everything. I decided to lock myself in my house and dedicate myself to what I liked, writing, photography and video, I just went out to buy food and visit my mother.”
“In Spain I’ve been living with people from other countries, there are no Cubans with me. I came to realize that we can better withstand these types of situations. We are already adapted to difficulties, to withstanding whatever comes, taking it in stride. Here at least there is food, there is open internet, you can spend a enclosed and it’s not a big problem. In Cuba that’s another story, where right now there are shortages of all kinds.”
HT: Can you summarize your view of the homophobia you have suffered.
Homophobia on the island is a social, state and structural problem. It somehow forms a part of this socialism that they say exists in Cuba, which is nothing but a dictatorship. Fidel Castro once took it upon himself to promote homophobia in that speech where he spoke about foreign phenomena and he called us extravagant beings.
HT: Let’s talk about your art, I would say that you challenge the world with your own body. Are you in love with yourself?
It isn’t a matter of being in love with myself, I just have control over my body. If I want to strip naked, even if I’m ashamed, I let go of any complexes and do it. If I want to take an extremely vulgar photo, I do that too. I don’t even have to ask permission if I want to hurt myself, I don’t limit myself, I take risks. Then, I think: let them say what they want. I know that I am making something which expresses my situations as a human being.
HT: Does this have something to do with the censorship you experienced?
In Cuba, I lived in solitude a long time. I always felt like most people undervalued me. Asking someone to work with me in erotic photos, without receiving anything in return, was difficult. Although I received support from three photographers at one point: Bernardo Acosta, Abel Ernesto and Rody Enriquez. They helped me to photograph my first shoots because I didn’t have a camera. Some friends also formed a part of my project, without any personal interest, but I was pretty much always the subject.
HT: You have freed yourself from the dictatorship for now, yet you have been censored on social media.
Facebook and Instagram are prudish social media platforms, where a nude picture is scandalized and censored without seeing its artistic value. According to them, our sex organs don’t form part of the human body. In the meantime, they allow images where you can see brutal violence between humans or animal abuse, every day. Generally-speaking, these images make you depressed and feel bad.
HT: Linked to eroticism, are you concerned about pornography?
Pornography has been around since the beginning of time. Millions of people consume pornography, we have to bear in mind the fact that sex is present in everybody’s lives, that we are sexual beings until the day we die.
HT: Do you set yourself limits?
I try not to limit myself, and I show what I want to show, although sometimes it’s better to be just suggestive. Nobody can condemn me for showing my buttocks, because they are my own, my whole body is mine. People who want to look can, and those who don’t, have the right to choose the content they wish to consume.
HT: Do you plan on scandalizing the prude?
Right now, I am working on the script for a medium-length film which I believe is the most hardcore I’ve made, in visual terms. I am a little more explicit in this one, and I like to tell things for what they are. Showing everything as it is in real life. I like to be me, especially when my work is normally based on my own life experiences. I don’t let myself lie, although I’m not 100% loyal to reality either. Fiction will always form a part of my work because it helps me to enrich my ideas in a sense.
HT: Are there any artistic references you would like to share?
I have always identified with singer Madonna, I dreamed of being just like her for much of my youth. Her music and videos have always been an inspiration to me, although I’ve had to work without resources, I do everything on my own practically.
HT: What are your personal aspirations?
Right now, I can’t imagine any personal destination, the only thing we can’t run from is death. In the meantime, it’s good to carry on walking the path that lets you feel free.
HT: In spite of a safe haven called Spain, do you want to go back to Cuba?
Cuba is a country that has remained stuck in a moment in time, it needs to open up to the world and discover thousands of things. Over the past 61 years, it has lost out on a great deal by being in this coma induced by its own fake and corrupt leaders. The end will come, I just hope I’m alive to see it, so I can enjoy the moment. Finally being able to go back to Havana when I want to and be able to walk down its streets without fear.
Nonardo Perea, La Habana, 1973. Narrator, Visual artist and YouTuber. Multi-award winner in Cuba and abroad, especially his books Donde el diablo puso la mano (Ed. Montecallado, 2013) and Los amores ejemplares (Ed. Fra. Praga, 2018). Photos of his work have been used as story book covers. Third place winner of the photography award “La casa por la ventana” 2014, Genderotica festival, with his Vulgarmente Clasica project. Rome, Italy. 2018. Participated in the Bienal00 (independent to the Cuban Ministry of Culture’s biennial) with the project: En la cama con Nonardo. 2018. He presented his performance Vulgarmente Clasica at the La Neomudejar museum, in Madrid 2019.