Habanarte, all art at once

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Havana stands out for being one of the cultural centers most important of Latin America and the Caribbean; it is hostess of multiple events, whether in the presentation of national productions or in the fusion with foreign artists. Its position as a capital, its infra-structure and tourism attraction turn it into a venue for prestigious festivals that honor each one of the artistic expressions. In a look throughout some of the most experienced and acknowledged, it stands out: The Biennial of Havana, the International Festival of the New Latin American Cinema, Cubadisco, the International Ballet Festival of Havana, Routes and Travels, Jazz Plaza, the Dance Festival on Urban Landscapes “City on Movement”, the International Book Fair of Havana, among many others.

Nevertheless, it wasn’t until 2014 when it was suggested the carrying out of an event where it appeared all the artistic expressions, genres and styles, showing its works simultaneously in different stages of the capital. The Habanarte Festival, loyal to the city that takes it in, with a first edition appointed from September 11 to 21, was acknowledged as the greatest cultural event ever seen in Cuba: around a thousand artists, almost a hundred of cultural institutions, days and nights, convergence of expressions. It was an embracing offer that wanted to show to the national and foreign public a wide representation of the best art in the island and, at the same time, to identify it as one of the cultural destinations more creative of the world.

Undoubtedly, we are a musical country, we are able to put rhythm and movement into anything; “we sing, we dance and we eat fruits” –un-legitimizing a little the well-known popular saying–. Jazz, rock, son, classical music, pop, trova, rumba and a lot more, are part of our musical background, where Havana and its inhabitants are one of the most privileged and mentioned cities in the national repertoire. Many have been the artists who have dedicated their work to it, and even mark with their origin the name of their bands: Carlos Varela, Gerardo Alfonso, Los Zafiros, Habana D´ Primera, Habana Compás Dance, Septeto Habanero, are just a few examples.

That’s why it is not a surprise that music is one of the most fruitful expressions in the program of Habanarte, and it conquers first places within the cultural habits of people from the capital and public in general.

All this is accompanied by the wide artistic education given by the schools of art and the promotion to young artists and more acclaimed. Percussion workshops, singing, salsa, Cuban jazz and different musical instruments are other options of which men and women from Havana that want to know more about Cuban music make a good use. But the offer doesn’t come alone. It gives the opportunity to visit cultural institutions acknowledged not only because they educated hundreds of Cuban artists, but because the elegance of their buildings, their preservation state and design of their spaces. Havana takes great delight in places like the High Institute of Art (ISA), the National Museum of Fine Arts, the Martí Theatre, the National Ballet School, the National Museum of Decorative Arts and the National Theatre.

The architecture is other of the great patrimonial assets of the city. In it there coexist multiple styles, from colonial and baroque, up to the art nouveau, deco and eclectic, the modernism and the neoclassical; “The city of columns”, as one of the most famous writers of the universal literature, Alejo Carpentier, called it. Like him, others writers and artists have been captivated; that way it appeared the Havana of Ernest Hemingway, kept in the universal memory through popular literature and culture. It stands still as a time witness the Finca Vigía –his residence and refuge– where important documents, pieces and personal belongings, among them the yacht “Pilar”, are preserved. In the coastal town Cojímar, scenery of his novel “The old man and the sea”, it remains his favorite restaurant La Terraza, the cocktail “Don Gregorio” –dedicated to the skipper and pattern of the novel’s protagonist, Gregorio Fuentes– and a statue raised to the well-known writer after his death, as homage from the fishermen. The tour goes on to the Old Havana: where the restoration, modernity and ruins of carelessness coincide in the same space. There it is treasured the 511 of the hotel Ambos Mundos, place of study-life-work for many years of the Nobel Prize of Literature; El Floridita and La Bodeguita del Medio, two of the more famous bars in Cuba, and where Hemingway used to go to enjoy the popular mojitos and daiquiris.

But Havana brought us much more during these days. The seventh art ruled again on 23 Street, one of the main arteries of the metropolitan neighborhood Vedado. It wasn’t necessary to be on December for the Latin American Cinema Festival is celebrated, or the usual weeks dedicated to the French, German, Brazilian or South African movies. This time Cuban cinematography crowded the entrance halls and publicities boards of cultural institutions; a large retrospective throughout the best movies of the national production, with titles that to a certain point praise the city. It stands out movies like “Vampires in Havana”, “A Paradise under the stars”, “Strawberry and Chocolate”, “Suite Habana” or “The beauty of the Alhambra”.

In respect to visual arts, Habanarte took the opportunity to celebrate and pay tribute to the three decades of the Biennial of Havana, even though this year it is not celebrated. All this allowed me to breathe the same air of those days, with streets and institutions crowded by the best of this creation. One of the most interesting offers was the Havana Open House, a project that opens workshops of some well-known contemporary Cuban artists to the partaker public, and it also opens the doors of the Sixth Exhibition of Cuban Contemporary Art organized by the Development Center of Visual Arts. Undoubtedly, it is an ideal opportunity to explore histories, habits and phases of the creative process of those who, in more than one occasion, have assumed Havana as the protagonist of their works.

This fact is added to the Galleries Nights, nighttime visits to exhibitions where there are musicians and artists invited. To enjoy this space includes another attraction –maybe, it was not consciously planned, but it is available and shown to all senses–: the free tour through Havana nights, a landscape that overflowed performances and sounds to experience by your own, which are not always attainable from a fixed image.

None of these moments hide from the youngsters’ creativity and talent, a group that has its own space within the Festival. The second edition of Post-it –a competition and exhibition-sales of plastic arts by young artists under 35 years of age– is the center of attention at the Galleries Galeano and Collage Habana.

That and much more the Festival Habanarte brought: a perfect marriage between all the artistic expressions. Each one exhibited the best of its catalog in ten days, in the most diverse and inclusive exhibition of the national contemporary art as its promotional slogan said: “All art at once”.

In that way Havana wore full dress to attract once again its inhabitants and visitors without any other reason than showing its patrimony, traditions, artistic and institutional potential. Thermometer? Maybe. It encourages being aware on what happen there…, it invites to keep breathing life, culture.

Yolaida Duharte López

(Habanarte Project) Articles:

  1. Habanarte, all art at once / Yolaida Duharte López
  2. Habanarte: the distinction of Art / Yesel Melo Proveyer
  3. Come with me / Joanna Castillo
  4. Papa Doble / Mónica Sera Luaces
  5. Oh, Havana, oh, Havana... / Mónica Sera Luaces




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