Jet-lagged, hung-over and hopeful. Words that describe my return to London, having spent a number of weeks travelling around Cuba, alone. For some of you that may sound strange……as most normal people would want to be with friends and family during the festive season. However I was in desperate need of an adventure, in search of inspiration! What better way to be revitalized by travelling to a land that has not been infected by materialism, reality TV and social networking!
Cuba in its raw form is like a diamond in a block of coal!
Since the revolution in 1950’s the communist structure which engulfs Cuba has been the foundation of pro Cuba – Fidel Castro propaganda. Everywhere in Cuba there is text, images, films which document the struggle of the revolution from the iconic images of Ché Guevara to the words of Fidel Castro painted in big red letters on every white wall.
A revolution is a struggle to the death between the future and the past.- Fidel Castro
There is no escape from the political history, for me this was enlightening and appealing but to some of the Cubans who have been exposed to this form of propaganda every day, it is a curse rather than a blessing.
Unable to fight against more than 50 years regime, a lot of Cubans that I met on my travels were beyond the point of frustration! Everything is monitored; newspapers, books, songs, tv programmes, everything is pro-revolution because Big Brother (Fidel) is always watching. Despite these restraints, Cubans remain cultured and expressive via the Arts. Without the constant force of online activity and TV. There is no other way to be entertained but by hanging out with your family drinking rum and smoking cigars (I know it is cliché but people actually do that) or you can always find some excitement in a salsa bar. A trip to the theatre will leave you pleasantly surprised, or a game of Domino’s on the street corner. Either way, the Arts is at the soul of Cuba.
During the month of December, Havana hosts the annual Latin American Film Festival, which features over 100 international indie films. I went to see a great French film – with Spanish subtitles – Amores Imaginación (Loves Imagination). The cinema was packed with such a diverse audience, ages ranging from 12 – 80. With tickets for the cinema at 2 Cuban Pesos (less than £1), it was no wonder the cinema was packed. It was the same at the Theatre, I went to see the Comedy of Errors (yes Shakespeare in Spanish…..my brain hurt so much….trying to translate in my head… hard…..very hard!) at the price of 10 Cuban Pesos (less than £1) again the theatre was packed with such a diverse audience, ages ranging from 12-80 years. But then it dawned on me……….the reason why so many people attend the theatre and cinema in Cuba is because this is the only avenue, which allows Cubans to comment on their everyday lives and their government.
For example, the Comedy of Errors was not a Shakespeare play. No it was a play which expressed the Comedy of Errors of the Cuban government; there were so many innuendos about Raúl Castro’s sexuality and the errors of the revolution. Yet to the naked eye, the simpleton, the tourist this was just a play by Shakespeare, nothing more nothing less.
Another example, the French film: Amores Imaginacíon, a film which explores an interesting love triangle involving 1 girl and 2 guys, involving homosexuality,( at the start of the Cuban Revolution – Fidel tried persecuted homosexuals) casual sex and idolisation within an environment that is all so different and individual. Yet when the film finished people were crying out for more!
Yes, where there is a will, there is always a way.
The Creative industries have always found a way to remove oneself from the imprisonment that life throws at us, and Cuba paves the way for Artistic license.
Bearing this in mind, I was hypnotised by a religion and in my opinion an artistic movement, which the western world has not encountered.
Santería – (Please click on the word for more info)
The mystical rhythms of the African Drums were heard every Sunday in the households of Santería. Most European tourists belittled this religion by assuming that it was voodoo, however what I witnessed was not a negative force, which black magic- voodoo carries. I saw a spectacle of movement and dance that no European Dance company could ever master, for this was movement in its basic , rare form accompanied by drum beats and singing that were so infectious that it was crippling not to dance. The feeling of entitlement, ownership, and prevalence filled my body, feelings that I have felt once before when visiting family in Ghana. Maybe there is some kind of magic to the Santería music, I don’t know….but watching the performers’ intertwine with one another and embrace the audience, this was mesmerising and made me think as to whether a theatre production in the West was capable of such power over their audience by simple means?
There are so many experiences that I have had during my time in Cuba, that to be honest it is very hard for me to write about, simply because I am not a writer and somethings are better left unwritten and unsaid.
I have learnt so much during my trip, I have learnt that to be bold in my choices, and to embrace change and curiosity. Whenever ever there is a problem, laugh about it, drink Rum, dance to your heart is content and carry on. I have also learnt that there is always a way to create, produce and educate. To produce Art you do not necessarily need to have thousands and thousands of pounds. For example I met an artist Lázaro Salsita, who creates sculptures using two simply materials – newspapers and string. The sculptures that he creates are exhibited in his house and gallery in the heart of Havana, bringing happiness and amazement to all that walk by. Does he do this for money? No. Does he do this to become famous? No. When I asked Lázaro as to why he created these sculptures his reply was ‘porque no hay vida sin imaginación. Mis esculturas provocan la imaginación ….’
So with this thought in mind, I begin a new year, with a new perspective, a new appreciation for what I do, and a new love for acting. Staying focus, staying in touch with reality. Keeping it fresh, keeping it adventurous, keeping it spiritual and doing something different for 2012.
I am not a writer, just a blabber, a girl that asks many questions but never knows how to collate the answers. Just a normal girl with nothing more to say, than words that mean nothing but say something.