How Cuban artwork fed Africa’s liberation struggles

An Ospaaal poster called After Emory Douglas, 1968 showing women in headscarves with babies and gunsPicture copyright
Lázaro Abreu Padrón

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An exhibition of Cuban propaganda posters and magazines in London reveals the help Fidel Castro gave to African liberation actions through the Chilly Struggle.


The artwork works have been produced for Castro’s Organisation of Solidarity of the Individuals of Asia, Africa and Latin America (Ospaaal), which was born out of the Tricontinental Convention, hosted in Havana in 1966, to fight US imperialism.

“Numerous African nations have been represented as a part of the delegation there, together with liberation actions. And Castro linked with just a few leaders, significantly Amílcar Cabral from Guinea-Bissau,” Olivia Ahmad, the curator of the exhibition on the Home of Illustration, advised the BBC.


A Ospaaal poster entitled Day of solidarity with people of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde Islands, 1974, showing Amílcar CabralPicture copyright
Olivio Martínez Viera

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Amílcar Cabral on the poster Day of solidarity with folks of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde Islands, 1974

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Cabral led the battle in opposition to Portuguese colonial rule in Guinea-Bissau and the Cape Verde islands, however was assassinated in 1973, a 12 months earlier than Guinea-Bissau grew to become impartial.

Ms Ahmad says extra Tricontinental Conferences have been deliberate, however by no means occurred so Ospaaal’s publishing arm grew to become an necessary strategy to maintain in touch and share info – and posters have been folded up and put inside its publications.

Latin America’s most recognisable revolutionary, Ernesto “Che” Guevara, was “in all probability probably the most depicted throughout the entire output of Ospaaal”, she says.

“However there are recurring ones of those African leaders being celebrated in the identical means and commemorated as nicely.”

An Ospaaal poster entitled Che Guevara, 1969, showing his face over a rainbow designPicture copyright
Alfredo G Rostgaard

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Che Guevara depicted in a poster from 1969

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Guevara infamously went to what’s now Democratic Republic of Congo in 1965 on a failed mission to foment revolt in opposition to the pro-Western regime 4 years after the assassination of Congolese independence hero Patrice Lumumba.

Lumumba’s killing, 4 months after he had being elected the nation’s first democratic prime minister, was extensively blamed on US and UK intelligence businesses.

An Ospaaal poster, entitled Day of Solidarity with the Congo, 1972, showing the face of Patrice Lumumba over a map of AfricaPicture copyright
Alfredo Rostgaard

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Patrice Lumumba featured on the poster Day of Solidarity with the Congo, 1972

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“The portraits are significantly attention-grabbing as a result of they’ve all these pop artwork influences that you simply may not anticipate to see, so they’re form of celebrating folks however in a genuinely celebratory means – fairly than having a kind of like lumpen socialist-realist aesthetic,” says Ms Ahmad.

The works showcased in Designed in Cuba: Chilly Struggle Graphics exhibition have been produced by 33 designers, lots of them girls – who made a few of these most enduring photographs.

A poster about Guinea-Bissau displaying a girl holding a machine gun is by Berta Abelenda Fernandez, “one of many girls who made a number of the most iconic designs for Ospaaal”, says Ms Ahmad.

An Ospaaal poster, entitled Day of Solidarity with the People of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde, 1968 showing a woman with a gunPicture copyright
Berta Abelénda Fernández

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Day of Solidarity with the Individuals of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde, 1968

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It is among the recurring motifs – girls with weapons – displaying them taking an lively function and the Tricontinental journal had “various contributions from girls and articles about girls as nicely on guerrilla fronts”, Ms Ahmad says.

The cover of the magazine Tricontinental 95 with the word Angola and a woman holding a machinegunPicture copyright
Ospaaal

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A canopy of the Tricontinental journal in 1995

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Castro performed a serious function in Angola, not like Cuba’s secret operations in Africa within the 1960s, the place he noticed a possibility to exert his model of worldwide solidarity to make a distinction on a worldwide scale.

Forward of Angola’s independence from Portugal in 1975, Castro despatched elite particular forces and 35,000 troopers to help the Marxist MPLA motion to cease apartheid South African troops putting in pro-US actions to energy.

An Ospaaal entitled Day of Solidarity with Angola, 1972, with a patterned poster and facePicture copyright
José Lucio Martínez Pedro

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Day of Solidarity with Angola, 1972

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Based on Alex Vines of the suppose tank Chatham Home, at the least four,300 Cubans are thought to have died in conflicts in Africa, half of them in Angola alone the place the civil battle didn’t finish till 2002.

The posters carrying messages of solidarity to liberation fighters often did so “utilizing daring visible metaphors or fairly easy visible propositions”, says Ms Ahmad.

They tended to have captions on the backside, often in 4 languages – English, Spanish, French and Arabic – “to assist them be extra common as a result of they have been meant for circulation fairly than to be seen in Cuba”, she says.

An Ospaal poster called International Week of Solidarity with the Peoples of Africa, 1970, showing the word Africa breaking through barbed wirePicture copyright
Gladys Acosta Ávila

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Worldwide Week of Solidarity with the Peoples of Africa, 1970

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Ospaaal oversaw an enormous publishing operation, which concerned a variety of paper and ink. Olivio Martínez Viera, a designer who was at Ospaaal from nearly the start, mentioned there have been usually materials shortages that meant they needed to be fairly inventive.

An Ospaaal poster called Day of World Solidarity with the Struggle of the People of Mozambique, 1973, showing a dagger being pushed into a handPicture copyright
Olivio Martínez Viera

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Day of World Solidarity with the Battle of the Individuals of Mozambique, 1973

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Viera “talks actually fondly about that point, about Ospaaal being an actual nurturing area for experimentation and having the liberty to create these actually direct visible metaphors just like the Mozambique” design of a dagger plunging by a hand, says Ms Ahmad.

A lot of Ospaaal’s output was directed in the direction of the battle in opposition to white-minority rule in South Africa, which didn’t finish till 1994 when anti-apartheid chief Nelson Mandela was elected president.

An Ospaaal poster entitled Day of Solidarity with the People of South Africa, 1968, showing a stylised design of a warrior with a spear and shieldPicture copyright
Berta Abelénda Fernández

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Day of Solidarity with the Individuals of South Africa, 1968

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Teishan Latner’s guide Cuba Revolution in America reveals a satirical advert for South African Airways included in Tricontinental’s July-August 1968 subject promising “an unforgettable trip within the land of APARTHEID, the place Africans are massacred, the place prisons overflow with patriots preventing in opposition to white racists, the place hundreds of Blacks work as slaves within the gold mines, the place miles and miles of land are used for focus camps”.

The photographs on the Ospaaal posters have been simply as blunt:

An Ospaaal poster entitled South Africa - Against Apartheid, 1982, showing a man with a bear chest and bleeding heart shaped like AfricaPicture copyright
Rafael Morante Boyerizo

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South Africa – Towards Apartheid, 1982

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After Mandela was imprisoned by the apartheid authorities in 1964, it was unlawful to photograph or republish a photograph of him in South Africa. This poster got here out in 1989, a 12 months earlier than his launch after 27 years in jail.

An Ospaaal poster entitled Nelson Mandela, 1989 with the words: Picture copyright
Alberto Blanco González

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Nelson Mandela, 1989

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The artists producing the posters have been primarily primarily based in Havana and have been attempting to know the political context for actual folks usually utilizing press images, says Ms Ahmad.

An Ospaaal poster entitled Namibia Will Win! 1977 showing the child crying and the image of a fighter in one tearPicture copyright
Víctor Manuel Navarrete

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Namibia Will Win! 1977

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“They’re very graphically attention-grabbing… attempting to sympathise with all these geopolitical messages. I believe most are hits after which a few of them are barely questionable.”

It isn’t at all times clear what a number of the stylised sculptures have been primarily based on. “I believe they’re mainly simply attempting to narrate modern battle in an extended historical past,” says Ms Ahmad.

An Ospaaal poster entitled Day of Solidarity with Zimbabwe, 1969. showing a statue holding a gunPicture copyright
Jesús Forjans Boade

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Day of Solidarity with Zimbabwe, 1969

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Ospaaal closed this 12 months saying its work was finished.

“I believe the context for these worldwide actions has actually modified, so you may see why,” says Ms Ahmad.

However the curator says Ospaaal’s work and variety of output has been spectacular and its potential to sum up advanced messages in an enticing means.

“Additionally it is attention-grabbing to see what is basically propaganda executed with humour and infrequently levity,” she says.

An Ospaaal poster entitled Long Live Free Zimbabwe, 1980 showing a woman holding up a banner with that phrasePicture copyright
Lázaro Abreu Padrón

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Lengthy Stay Free Zimbabwe, 1980

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Pictures courtesy of The Home of Illustration in London. Copyright: Ospaaal, The Mike Stanfield Assortment