Monday, May 27, 2013

Living Despite Anger


Christine Rushton
May 16, 2013
Greenish brown with ripped fuzz, a tennis ball flew with bullet-like precision past my left ear as I, alone, maneuvered one foot in front of the other through the streets of Havana. The three Cuban boys whose feet shared the uneven cobblestones with my own had shed the ties of their school uniforms and taken up a game of catch. A Cuban carriage taxi driver caught the ball that had just skimmed the hairs of my ear, and lightly tossed it back to the boys as he tilted his head to silently warn them. Hitting a visitor in the streets would not fly as well as their pitches.

By - SlideShow Maker

The dynamic of Cuba reflects two extremes: one of light-hearted play and one of suppressed anguish. Visiting the Instituto Superior de Arte (ISA) students in Havana opened my eyes to a side of Cuban youth I had yet to come across. Years of regulation hindering the citizens from learning new technologies, pursuing their passions, and exploring freedoms of democracy, has filled their hearts and art pieces with anger.
The ISA University for arts.          Christine Rushton/Murrow College

One artist who specializes in carving wood flat stencils on which he lays canvas to shade and rub, started as a student at ISA. He studied for five years before the school accepted him back as a professor. Between shy, hesitant smiles and hand gestures used to tear down the language barrier between my broken Spanish and his English, he conveyed that the subjects of his pieces often reflect very powerful men. “Some of my work is driven by my passion.”

Standing before a stack of his finished pieces, he swept his right hand over one portraying a man with a funnel filled with nails going down his throat. He explained that parts of life are often hard to swallow.

Artwork of a professor at ISA.      Christine Rushton/Murrow College
Still smiling and humbly sharing, he represented an odd disconnect between the melancholy tone of his drawings and the way he pleasantly presented the works, confusing my opinions. The level of competition to succeed in Cuba often drives its citizens to defect, like the ballet dancers from the Ballet Nacional de Cuba. Several have toured the U.S. with the company only to seek asylum and positions in companies like the Boston Ballet. There, they grew in their careers.

The streets of Old Havana.             Christine Rushton/Murrow College
This man achieved success and expresses power and oppression through the stroke of his pencils, but shares his work with fearless pride. The scars of his country appear in each line gouged into his wood stencils.

Three Cuban boys dodging rancid meat and crumbling architecture on a dust filled Havana street do not dwell on the privileges other children their age might have. One day they may paint, sing, or shout their frustration, but for now they toss a ball around. For now, they play as boys.

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