Juan Roberto Diago is a leading member of the new Afro-Cuban cultural movement, which has valiantly denounced the persistence of racism and discrimination in Cuban society. This exhibition of twenty-five mixed-media and installation artworks traced Diago’s vibrant career from the mid-1990s, when he began to construct a revisionist history of the Cuban nation from the experience of a person of African descent. It is a history of enslavement and cultural loss, but also of resilience and recovery, the kind of history that is required in this Afro-Cuban present.
A leading member of the new Afro-Cuban cultural movement, visual artist Juan Roberto Diago (b. 1971) has produced a body of work that offers a revisionist history of the Cuban nation. His “history,” a term that he frequently inserts in his works using the visual language of graffiti, contradicts the official narrative of a racially harmonious nation, created through the selfless efforts of generous white patriots. Diago’s Cuba is a nation built on pain, rape, greed, and the enslavement of millions of displaced Africans, a nation still grappling with the long-term effects of slavery and colonialism. To him, slavery is not the past, but a daily experience of racism and discrimination. Africa is not a root, but a wellspring of cultural and personal affirmation, the ancestors that sustain him in his journey. This exhibition examined Diago’s creative work over the course of his entire career. It traced his singular efforts to construct new pasts, the pasts required to explain the racial tensions of contemporary Cuba, the pasts of this Afro-Cuban present.
Curated by Alejandro de la Fuente
Director, Afro-Latin American Research Institute at the Hutchins Center