Prehistoric Cuban Art

The unconscious and induced spirituality

/ 1 December, 2017

To speak or write about prehistoric Cuban art, from art spaces (events, publications, galleries, etc.), appears a rarity, an eccentricity or, at the least, to approach something that is not of interest. The elusive and much used post-history has more swing.

However, more than seventy years ago, with the clear vision of an art historian, Anita Arroyo wrote about Cuba’s indigenous arts: “These would fill the profane who has never dealt with these things with astonishment, causing many to rectify the enormous error of the backwards level of culture that, without any grounds and with complete ignorance of our primitive civilizations, they mistakenly attributed them (…) What has been found to date, which is already very much (…) would suffice to fill several rooms (…) of a Great National Museum” (1943).

(…) Despite the fact that Cuban artists—modern and contemporary, figurative or abstract, in series or isolated works, based on a quote, recreated appropriation, or anthropological criteria—have shown interest in certain aspects of this past indigenous aesthetic, very little of this has been reflected in Cuban art research. There are no known curatorial proposals from art galleries interested in exhibiting Cuban archaeological pieces. Nor are there systematic studies that approach the symbolic questions or the elaboration of aesthetic ideas surrounding these indigenous productions from the Art History perspective. And the events and symposiums on Cuban art studies do not usually include the theme of indigenous arts, nor show an interest in encouraging their inclusion, despite the “survival of a memory, albeit somewhat diluted, but a memory nonetheless,” still prevailing in certain areas of this cultural geography. In general, these studies still fail to overcome the traditional frameworks of archaeological events.

(…) In the last event held in Havana (the 13th International Conference ANTROPOLOGIA 2016), a book was presented that announces this development from a particular branch of the archaeological field (Arte Rupestre de Cuba: Desafíos Conceptuales / Cuban Cave Art: Conceptual Challenges), by authors who do not come from the professional field of Art History. In the words of the presenter from the Cuban Institute of Anthropology, the previously stated is confirmed: the book constitutes a proposal of a “critical evaluation of the accumulated knowledge” in Cuban studies regarding “the origins of art in history.” Yet Cuban art historians, critics and aesthetes appear to have nothing to say in this regard. (…)

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