To most people Cuba is famous for cigars, rum, salsa and baseball. However, perhaps lesser known is the unique poster art that flourished thanks to the Cuban revolution.
As Fidel Castro’s regime set about building a new society, Cuba’s most talented artists played a crucial role in communicating its socialist objectives, ideology and political activities.
In contrast to the socialist realism of Russian or Chinese propaganda, Castro – who notably declared “our enemy is imperialism, not abstract art” – determined that the style of the revolution would be internationalist, yet steeped in Cuba’s rich cultural, ethnic and artistic heritage. This melting pot of influences, combined with a characteristic wit and exuberance, resulted in a vibrant and highly original Cuban style.
Amongst several agencies established to promote education, industry, sport and the arts, the Organisation in Solidarity with the People of Africa, Asia and Latin America (OSPAAAL) was created to reflect the efforts of the Cuban government in providing moral, material and military assistance throughout the developing world. Based in Havana the organisation’s quarterly magazine, Tricontinental (which at its peak was distributed in four languages to 87 countries) served as a notice board, guidebook and lifestyle magazine for various liberation movements seeking to emulate Castro’s popular revolution. Many issues included a folded poster pledging solidarity for what would become one of the most significant events in the Cold War era.
This selection offers a glimpse of posters OSPAAAL produced between 1967 and 1992. Politics aside, they represent an artistic legacy that has put Cuba at the centre of cultural activity in the Hispanic world for a generation.