The arts are not always in a prominent place on the political agenda in Africa, Latin-America and Asia. Nevertheless, an increasing number of governments recognise the importance of culture in itself and in connection to social and economic development. Part seventeen in a series on cultural policy in non-Western countries.


June 2006 -

The objectives of the Communist revolution of 1959 were utopian, in response to the decadence, corruption and violence that preceded it. One of the first measures taken by the new government was the definition of a cultural policy that strongly influenced the island state's artistic climate. The arts received large-scale state support, which not only offered artists opportunities but also placed them under the hold of the Communist party, necessitating artistic compromise. "All within the revolution, nothing outside of the revolution," Fidel Castro declared concerning his political policy with reference to artists in 1962.

It was difficult if not impossible for artists with deviating opinions on the cultural programs to gain recognition. Censure was particularly stifling in the 1970s. A fresh wind blew in the early 1980s: a period of openness and tolerance. Artists commenced a frontal attack on the official Cuba with performances and happenings. But this all came to an end in 1990. For three years, the Cuban art world was in a crisis. Many artists left, seeking a better alternative to silence in exile in the United States or Mexico.

Art critic Gerardo Mosquera describes the situation today as flexible. Artists have found a visual language of their own with which they can criticize Cuban reality. Multiple meanings are more the rule than the exception. "Cuban artists produce much metaphoric work, or work with a global morale," according to artists Carlos Garaicoa. "It is a very baroque way of discussing ideas."

Cuba has established cultural treaties with more than fifty countries and is a UNESCO member. Since its first edition in 1984, the Havana Biennial has grown to be become one of the world's most important contemporary art events.