Award-winning Cuban artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara donned flamboyant carnival attire as he unleashed his character Miss Bienal upon an unsuspecting Trafalgar Square on 26 October to protest against Decree 349, a law which threatens artistic expression in Cuba.
Expressing his surprise at being allowed to demonstrate in a public area without interference from authorities, he said: “People stop and stare, you know, but police don’t arrest me. It is strange because this wouldn’t happen in Cuba.”
Previously Alcántara was arrested for organising a concert against Decree 349, alongside Yanelyz Nuñez Leyva. If imposed on December 1, the law will see Cuba’s Ministry of Culture gain more power to censor art, issue fines and confiscate materials.
His character, Miss Bienal, takes inspiration from dancers of the famous Tropicana Cabaret and cliches about Cuba. He plans to perform as Miss Bienal around the world, and could recently be found parading the streets of Madrid.
Sue Bingham, country coordinator for Cuba at Amnesty International, was on hand to show her support. She said: “It’s important for the Cuban artists to be here today in Trafalgar Square because this is such an iconic place in London and they wanted to make sure that they bring their message to the very heart of the UK.”
Alcántara and Nuñez run the Museum of Dissidence, a public art project celebrating dissent in Cuba, and were the recipients of the 2018 Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Awards Fellowship for Arts. The activists finally received their accolades earlier this month after a seven-month battle to gain entry into the UK. The intimate ceremony was held at Metal arts centre in Chalkwell Hall, Southend.