Through contrasting styles, artists show images of the beleaguered communist island’s culture and history
Photo by: Brendan Brady
Cuban artist Fabian Munoz Diaz explains his work to Cambodian Hem Chamly, who studied in Cuba for seven years.
THE Cuban government has dispatched two of the country's promising young artists to exhibit their work in Phnom Penh on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the Cuban revolution.
"On January 1, 1959, the triumphant Revolution, led by Fidel Castro, put an end to the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista and to half a century of imperialistic dominance in Cuba," said the Cuban ambassador, Barbara Gilda Lopez, during the opening of the exhibit, which will be on display until Tuesday at Chaktomuk Theatre.
While the artists were introduced by the ambassador as "faithful exponents of the Cuban arts in the revolution", their works did not centre on the profound political event being commemorated.
They did, however, refer to some of the successes of the revolution as espoused by its partisans.
In one of the woodblock prints of William Hernandez Silva, a farmer awaits the departure of his "prodigal son" - a story the artist says reflects his own life, as he left his rural community to study in Havana on a scholarship.
[The exhibit] PROFOUNDLY REFLECTS [OUR] FRIENDSHIP AND SOLIDARITY.
The elegantly crafted woodblocks transpose the medieval motifs associated with the age-old medium onto more contemporary scenes of Cuban life.
"It's a very old style. I've been drawn to it since I was a child. But these are images that are still relevant to life today," Silva said.
The simple-styled modernist posters of Fabian Munoz Diaz include one stating, "No me imagino Che de ochenta" (I can't imagine Che at 80 years old), likely a reference to the unexpected longevity of Che Guevara's communist vision for Cuba, or the inability to picture the deceased idealist, whose visage symbolised the revolution, as anything but his youthful incarnation.
Both artists spent Friday speaking and giving workshops to students at the Royal University of Fine Arts. They had arrived from Vietnam - the only other stop on their tour - where they exhibited their work at the Ho Chi Minh City University of Fine Arts.
In a speech at the opening on Saturday, the minister of culture and arts, Him Chhem, said Cambodia and Cuba have shared a long diplomatic relationship, citing some hundred Cambodian students who have studied in Cuban universities on Havana's tab. The program has continued with a reduced number of students, despite Cambodia shedding the banner of socialism.
The occasion, Him Chhem said, "profoundly reflects the friendship and solidarity" between the two countries, and is an offering of congratulations by the Cambodian government to Cuba for its success in the revolution.