Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, a self-taught artist of colour from a humble background in Cuba, has been the target of an ongoing campaign of intimidation and harassment for the past two years. The independent artist, who is targeted for challenging the Cuban government, has been forcibly disappeared by Cuban police on numerous occasions, sometimes for hours and other times for days. Most recently, on the night of September 12, Otero Alcantara was arrested while standing outside the Taller Gorría Gallery near his home. According to neighbours who witnessed the arrest, several police officers and plain-clothed security agents beat him as they took him away. Read the article in full.
Index on Censorship calls for the immediate release of Cuban artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara, a member of the 2018 Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Award-winning Museum of Dissidence. This is the second time he has been arrested in two weeks.
Otero Alcantara was performing a homage to Daniel Llorente, which involved a footrace with American flags outside his home. Llorente demonstrated with the American flag in 2017 during Havana’s annual May Day celebrations. Otero Alcantara was detained along with two other artists and his whereabouts is currently unknown.
The head of Cuba’s National Council of Visual Arts, Norma Rodriguez, told Reuters in a press conference that Otero Alcantara “is an activist, not an artist”.
Michel Matus, an artist who captured Otero Alcantara’s arrest on video, wrote a statement on the harassment and threats he faced for filming and for being part of the campaign against Decree 349, a law that criminalises independent artists and places severe restrictions on cultural activity not authorised by the state. Matus was called into a police station to show the deeds to his home to prove ownership. He was interrogated for over nine hours about the campaign, his family and Otero Alcantara.
“Artists should not be criminalised for freely expressing themselves,” said Index on Censorship CEO Jodie Ginsberg. “The Cuban government should immediately release Luis Manuel and other jailed artists and end its repressive intimidation tactics.” [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_basic_grid post_type=”post” max_items=”4″ element_width=”6″ grid_id=”vc_gid:1555338145410-bdabf8fe-1d1a-7″ taxonomies=”7874″][/vc_column][/vc_row]
[vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”103502″ img_size=”full” add_caption=”yes”][vc_column_text]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.[/vc_column_text][vc_basic_grid post_type=”post” max_items=”12″ style=”load-more” items_per_page=”4″ element_width=”6″ grid_id=”vc_gid:1540980270804-460204da-ed5a-7″ taxonomies=”23772″][/vc_column][/vc_row]
[vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”103471″ img_size=”full” add_caption=”yes”][vc_column_text]Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, a Cuban artist, and co-founder of award-winning Museum of Dissidence will perform in Trafalgar Square on 26 October 2018.
Along with art curator Yanelys Nuñez Leyva, they were hosted in Metal Southend for two weeks in October as part of a collaboration with Index. During their stay, they were presented their Freedom of Expression Award in the Arts category by Index which they could not formally accept in April due to visa refusal by the United Kingdom.
Otero Alcántara will be reproducing an artistic action that he exports to different cities, most recently performed in Madrid. His character, Miss Bienal, was created in 2016 and was present at all of the 2016 Havana Biennial exhibition*. The character intends to symbolise the image of the sensual mulatto woman that every foreigner typifies in clichés for tourist and artistic consumption. Dressed as a dancer from the famous Tropicana Cabaret and distributing business card to as many people as possible, where he had his personal contact details.
Miss Bienal is now visiting London and making the character his personal loudspeaker for the urgent need for artistic free expression in Cuba. Censorship on the island is becoming worse as there is a new decree 349 which will criminalise all cultural production that does not respond to the ideology of the state. Miss Bienal will have the number 349 on her costume and will be informing spectators about the limited freedom of expression in Cuba.
*This performance was part of the Hors-Pistes event: The Spring of Love, curated by Catherine Sicot (Elegoa Cultural Produtions) and Geraldine Gomez (Center Pompidou, Program Hors-Pistes).[/vc_column_text][vc_basic_grid post_type=”post” max_items=”12″ style=”load-more” items_per_page=”4″ element_width=”6″ grid_id=”vc_gid:1540481508887-a7b0f0ee-6632-9″ taxonomies=”23772″][/vc_column][/vc_row]