Arts & Entertainment

“Invisible Portraits”: an Exhibition on the empowerment of black women in Cuba

Juan Carlos Espinosa

Havana, Sept 21 (EFE).- Making black women visible in their daily lives as a sign of empowerment is what young Cuban artist Daniela Águila proposes in her “Invisible Portraits” series, whose exhibition opened Thursday in Havana.

Águila’s project – her fifth personal exhibition on the island – is the result of two years of work and seeks to reflect “Afro-Cubanity from a female perspective,” the 23-year-old said in an interview with EFE.

According to her, it is her “most ambitious project to date”.

“Throughout history, I think there has been a void in the representation of black women. Especially a non-sexualized representation, based on the empowerment of women in every sense,” says Águila from Máxima gallery, in Old Havana.

Through nine pieces, with a palette reminiscent of pop art and reliefs that stand out from the fabric, Águila shows the vision of what she believes her generation can contribute. A generation often disparaged by its elders as “fragile,” preferring the immediacy typical of the TikTok and Instagram era.

“Just because we’re a generation of fast consumption doesn’t mean we’re doing low quality things,” she maintains.

For her, the pejorative nickname of being part of the “glass generation” refers to something positive: “(They should call us that) because of how transparent we are. We’re not afraid to show things the way they are.”

Her debut was in 2015, when she was still studying at the San Alejandro National Academy of Fine Arts. Now she continues to combine social life – “well, an attempt at social life (laughs)” – with her work and her classes at the University of the Arts (ISA) in Cuba.

This juggling act usually fails because her passion takes up most of her time.

Between cigarette puffs and brush strokes, she spends about eight hours in her studio, her second home since the fourth grade.

“As a kid, I always tried to try things. I studied guitar, I studied taekwondo, I studied tennis, I did a lot of things. But when I got to painting, I definitely said, ‘This is my medium, this is what I want to do,'” she recalls.

Art made in Cuba

In the future, she sees herself creating art in Cuba, something remarkable at a time when many others are leaving the island by the thousands, which has been mired in a severe economic crisis for more than two years.

In 2022 alone, about 3% of Cuba’s population emigrated across the border with Mexico to the United States, according to U.S. government figures. Many of them are young people fresh out of university.

“Yes, it is true that there are many people who graduate, leave and plan their future elsewhere, which I think is great. But it is not my interest, at least not at the moment. It seems to me that there is a lot to do here,” she assures EFE.

Her interest, she admits, is to “think about the two series that will come after” the current one. Always in the future, but not as an obsession: “I prefer to say focused (rather than obsessive)”.

“Invisible Portraits” will be on display in the island capital from this Thursday until October 21. EFE

jce/mcd (Photo) (Video)

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