The homage to Fidel from culture

Por: Raquel Marrero Yanes

Abel Prieto statement during the inauguration of the FIART´2016 cultural Fair

The new edition of the Havana International Craftsmanship Fair, FIART´ 2016, has summoned the presence of more than 300 artisans-artists from more than eighteen countries. At the end of a tour through Pabexpo fairgrounds, Abel Prieto, minister of Culture, agreed to talk with the Periódico Cubarte.

Under the impact of the pain that has shook Cuba and the world for the physical loss of the Commander in Chief Fidel Castro, the Cuban cultural and artistic life is resumed. How do you value the summon to artisans and artists in this event that celebrates its two decades creation?  

¨In the first place, Raquel, the opening act started with Eduardo Ramos extraordinary song, performed by Sara, that Fidel liked so much, followed by two pieces from the Hermanos Novo, part of the feeling shared during these days, which have been very bitter, but at the same time, very hopeful, because the people has cried for Fidel, but have been also evoking him so as he keeps alive among us, in this country; followed by the  heartfelt speech by Arturo, new director of the Fondo de Bienes Culturales. And in the end, the surprise to have Raúl Torres, Eduardo Sosa, Annie Garcés and Luna Manzanares, singing Cabalgando con Fidel, which is a great contribution to the all people’s homage, something really difficult to appraise. I realized at the act at the Square of the Revolution on the 29, at seven in the night, that the people already knew and sang this song when its video was screened.    

The youth has had a very authentic identification with Fidel, and this is very important. Yesterday I saw a report in the TV Cultural Newsreel, made by Morlote, with the statements of artists that participated both in the pilgrimage and at the act at the Square of the Revolution and in the honor guards. Very young people like Yasek Manzano, who said very impressive things; Israel and Joel of the Buena Fe duet and with them, people of all generations, Ever Fonseca, Pancho Amat, Omara, Frank Fernández, Graziella Pogolotti, one of the most lucid personalities of Cuban present intellectuality, and also Amaury Pérez, Tín Cremata and so many others who spoke. José María emotionally evoked his brother Sergio and especially Cintio, who was so close to Fidel and so dear by Raúl.  

Artists, as inseparable part of this people have had very hard days but it has always be, deep down in bitterness and sadness, as I was telling you, a component of hope.  All of a sudden, this opening act gave sense to this fair, something we were wondering how to do after the loss, such as Arturo said openly in his speech. Because this event and the creative leap artistic handicraft has experienced in Cuba, has to do also with Fidel’s work.

What have impressed you the most during your visit to FIART fairgrounds?

I was impressed with the furniture-making artisans work, because one of the problems I have been discussing about for many years – and this is Mercy Correa here, who won’t let me lie— is that we were giving space, mostly in the furniture making manifestation, to a kitsch- trend liking with an excess of gleam, a shining make-up that almost got you blind and sometimes a touch of fake and supposedly refined “antique”.

I would never forget a definition of happiness Martí gave. He said it was to have — I would like to remember his exact words — very simple, unsophisticated, but at the same time very beautiful ornaments. And that’s enough to be happy.  Martí doesn’t say that happiness is to have an original of one of those French Impressionist painters about whom he acutely wrote.  It is not to have a piece acquired at an auction for whatever amount of millions, but to have something beautiful, of good taste and at the same time simple. It is, as he said to María Mantilla in an amazing letter, “who has much inside, needs little outside”, “too much stores means little soul”. Martí perceived something that would be later revealed as a central piece of the capitalist power system: consumerism as the people’s sense of life. Fidel, as a son of Martí, insisted in the idea that culture forms part of the quality of life and works as an antidote regarding consumerism.

I saw the work of the Pinar del Rio province group “Los Chapuserios”, with a joke about their own name, who I didn’t know despite we were born in the same province. They work with hurricanes knocked down trees; they have been working with those pieces of fallen logs which they use to make ropes-tied chairs and tables.  They use rustic materials, and suddenly, out of that world emerges that beauty Marti talked about; that beauty of the simple things, which obviously requires talent to discover it. I also saw other collectives that were presenting furniture alike, including a suggestion as how to decorate a certain space. For example, the Havana’s project ¨Manufactura Propia¨, which makes furniture and small bookshelves with waste materials that are very useful and attractive, an Avant garde product.  

FIART Organizing Committee is now offering the people proposals and concepts associated to the idea that art and culture are more than “the pretty thing”, more than a depressing image related to mediocre shine.  The idea that the rustic things don’t have to be ugly, that the lack of resources don’t mean sloppiness, something Alfredo Guevara repeated so much, that Socialism had to fight to create beautiful spaces and that we can’t let the new generations to link Socialism with the ugliness and things with nor soul neither charm. A closer tour through this fair is also something educational in aesthetical and environmental terms.    

You mentioned Alfredo Guevara. Just few days before the inauguration of the 38 International Festival of the New Latin American Film, what importance you give to this event founded by Fidel and Alfredo Guevara?

Certainly, the homage to Fidel will be present during the inaugural act, the forums and in many other moments. And this is something natural: Fidel is the responsible for the creation of ICAIC in the same 1959, with Alfredo, with  Julio, for the creation of the Fundación del Nuevo Cine Latinoamericano, with García Márquez and Fernando Birri, and of the International School of Film of San Antonio de los Baños, which celebrates its 30 anniversary. I am sure that this Festival will be also homage to Fidel, promoter, together to Cuba and this continent’s artistic Avant garde, of the New Latin American Film Movement.

More than forty audiovisuals in different genres, out of the 126 Cuban works selected are independent productions. How do you value the insertion of this form of cinematographic production in the present context?

Precisely Raquel, during these days prior to the Festival, we have met with different generations of filmmakers, some of them very young, others with large and relevant careers; and have been serious, clear, useful dialogues, as it should always be between the institutions and the creators and have confirmed the need to support, to take attention to and to back that independent cinema and to transform the structures of the whole Cuban film system and of ICAIC in particular, as the rector institution.

These are not new ideas. The conversations I mean, have been retaken the proposals elaborated since 2013 by filmmakers and by ICAIC, mostly those referred to the legal approval of the audiovisual creator as an independent artist and of the non-state producers as organic part of the Cuban film system. The Ministry will continue to work on this. In fact, during the latest congress of the Cuban Communist Party, a specific line was added orienting all to advance in that field seeking to favor cinema, its filmmakers and the Revolution cultural policy. An anti- dogmatic, inclusive, policy that was born 55 years ago with Fidel’s Words to the Intellectuals, (Palabras de Fidel a los Intelectuales), and that has guaranteed a widest freedom of creation within the principles.  

We have agreed about the emergency of some of these actions. We think it is essential to create the Fondo de Fomento Cinematográfico, (Cinematograhic Foment Fund) that could take place within some days. This is a formula that with the participation of highly qualified assessors will make possible the selection of the best projects and a fair and transparent distribution of the resources available for the production. It’s something that will favor a more dynamic link between our film institute and the filmmakers.

This month will be also celebrated in Havana a new edition of the Jazz Plaza International Festival, which for the first time will have a secondary venue, Santiago de Cuba. What is your opinion about this event?

 I know the Jazz Plaza is attended by very prestigious personalities from the United States, Mexico, the African continent and other places. We are living a creative and musical talent boom associated to Jazz in Cuba and this will be expressed in the fecund confrontation among all participating artists. One of the truly relevant phenomena has been to witness the emergence of exceptional young Jazz musicians. Wynton Marsalis, Herbie Hancock and many other Jazz figures of the world has been dazzled before the talent of these inspired boys graduated from our art schools and the Jo Jazz contest, and who already have an international projection. 

And the fact that Santiago is the secondary venue of the event I think is due to the fact that it is the most Caribbean city of Cuba, with the growing force this genre has taken there thanks to new institutions, with that element of our own that Chucho Valdés, for example, has included to his work as extraordinary composer and soloist. It is said that we make Latin Jazz, and maybe sometime it will be talked about Caribbean Jazz, and although I’m not an expert at all, I think it is already being talked about the Cuban Jazz. 

The Inter-governmental Committee for the Safeguard of the UNESCO Immaterial Cultural Patrimony has just been included the Rumba in the List of Humankind Intangible Cultural Patrimony. This recognition was devoted to Fidel as our national identity diversity maximum promoter. What does that distinction mean for the Cuban culture?

It is very just that the president of the Council of Patrimony, Gladys Collazo, to whom the terrible new surprised in Addis Ababa where the UNESCO Committee was in session, dedicated him this triumph of the popular Cuban culture, of our culture of resistance, because in the Rumba are represented those who didn’t let the Spanish colonialism and later the Yankee colonialism to defeat them; very humble people that loved and loves Fidel very much and whom he took out of marginalization and indigence.

Just this Sunday, as per an initiative of the president of UNEAC, Miguel Barnet, who made so much to defend this declaration, will be celebrated “la Rumba por Fidel” (Rumba for Fidel), at the Salón Rosado of La Tropical and in every provincial seat of the artists and writers organization. Those culture bearers he emancipated will be remembering him and celebrating the event at “La Rumba por Fidel”. It is very transcendental that UNESCO had recognized this expression of ours, so Cuban and so genuine, because at this moment in the whole world are growing fascists and racists trends, the most fierce and retrograde extreme right ideology . You are seeing it with the immigrants’ phenomena, a strong fascist-like trend. That was how Hitler emerged. The crisis of Capitalism, the need to have a scapegoat, that then were the Jews, the Communists and all those they consider “inferior” and now are the immigrants, those who run away from the misery that system has caused, from the horror of its wars and that now are rejected. A very painful meanness is being fostered to make you believe that the daily tragedy happens only in the television.  More than ten thousand missing children who said are in the hands of the mafias, of organs traffickers, of pedophiles. They want us to get used, as if we were watching a TV show, to somebody else’s pain, as something we have nothing to do with.