Len Phelan reviews the Art of Solidarity.
It's hard to think of a more appropriate venue for Art of Solidarity, a marvellous exhibition of Cuban posters supporting the liberation struggle in Africa from the late 1960s to the late 1980s, than the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool. The museum promotes awareness and understanding of the legacies of slavery today, including highlighting positive black role models from history and popular culture, and this exhibition certainly makes a contribution to those vital aims.
Africa- International Week of Solidarity with the Peoples of Africa, 1970
by Gladys Acosta Ávila
Africa, 1969, by Jesús Forjáns Boade
Untitled, 1968, By Lázaro Abreu Padrón/Emory Douglas
During the two decades covered by the exhibition, Cuba did not simply pay lip service to national liberation struggles on the continent. It offered armed and other assistance and, in Angola, the role of Cuban fighters was crucial in bringing the military might of South Africa’s apartheid regime to its knees.
These iconic posters are a record of that time and the importance that the Cuban revolution has always attached to visual communication to educate, agitate and organise. The 32 on show, many rarely seen in Britain, were produced by the Organisation in Solidarity with the People of Africa, Asia and Latin America (OSPAAAL) and they typify the spirit of internationalism, embedded in the national consciousness, which is a hallmark of the Cuban revolution.
OSPAAAL’s stated aim is to promote “solidarity with the Third World people’s struggles, claims and most precious desires” and the posters combine art, photography and text to convey a message that the museum’s curator Stephen Carl-Lokko describes as “striking and political, using simple images and symbolism to convey complex ideas and subjects.”
Day of Solidarity with Angola, 1969
by Daysi Garcia Lopez
Many focus on the fight against foreign domination and the struggle for self-determination and, with their visual references to the struggle against racism and discrimination, convey resistance to colonialism and apartheid.
“I’ve found the more I learn about the historical context of the posters, the more they reveal hidden symbolism and imagery,” Carl-Lokko says. “They provide an insight into many of the conflicts that continue to plague regions of the world today.”
There’s no stronger recommendation for visiting such an inspirational and informative exhibition.
Art of Solidarity is free and runs at the International Slavery Museum, Albert Dock, Liverpool, until June 18. A wide range of events associated with the exhibition are taking place during its run, details and opening times: liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/artofsolidarity
All images are copyright ‘Courtesy Lincoln Cushing and Docs Populi Archive’.
This article first appeared in the Morning Star.