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Havana II, Plaza del Cristo

Pen, pencil and acrylic paint on canvas
Dimensions: 170 x 190 cm

Cuba is changing. With steps towards the normalisation of relations with the United States (under Obama), the exponential rise in tourism, the death of Fidel Castro, Raúl Castro’s sweeping economic reforms resulting in new self-employment, Cuba is undergoing a radical transformation. These Havana paintings, from 2017-2019, capture a moment of time in that process. Castro-era revolutionary slogans still dominate the cityscape while US flags seep in, worn by locals as T-shirts, legginess, shorts, sunglasses and body-con dresses. The atmosphere is that of the hazy, hot, sun-bleached and crumbling façades of Old Havana. The city’s urban structure can be seen in the background with notes recoding the daily ongoings of Havanans. Wrought iron barriers on windows and doorways, although decorative and beautiful, keep outsiders out. In my many years of studying cities and urban public spaces, Havana was, for me, one of the most impenetrable and inaccessible places.

Photo: Jens Ziehe