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Elisa Tabakman: Editing, Ceramics, Life / Luis Felipe Rojas

15 Jan

Luis Felipe Rojas, 11 January 2016 — Her friends call her Elisa, it’s that simple. She is an Argentinian writer, editor, ceramics artist who got so involved in the case of the Cuban writer Angel Santiesteban that she ended up redesigning his blog, The Children Nobody Wanted, and wrote to Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders, to help them to visualize the irregularities in process repeatedly divorced from reason, but that sent Santiesteban to prison at the beginning of 2013.

Between that date and his release in 2015, while she posted the letters and articles of the Cuban novelist in “The Children…”, Elisa Tabakman was cooking animals and rare and beautiful creatures over a slow fire, with pieces of glass and wire. When the oven temperature drops out of the oven come cats and fish now celebrating life.

These big-eyed beings sent the imprisoned writer a message of encouragement to speak in front of Raul Castro. I met her through my colleague Amir Valle and since then I go to her Facebook wall and to her blog Elisa Tabakman Metal y Piedra. There I see that the blows and the dungeons haven’t left my friend and brother Angel Santiesteban all alone.

Tell me about your background, how did you come to this mixture of techniques.

I’m a fire artist, all, or almost all, the techniques of my work are covered in what is known as the fire arts: ceramics, glass, iron, jewelry. All the materials involved pass through fire, because even in my mosaics fire is involved, whether it’s stained glass or figures in iron or silver. You could almost say that if you pass through the path of the fire it is inevitable you will involve yourselves in all of its arts and possible techniques.

Fire is magic, fire purifies, fire transforms. Fire is what converts things in alchemy techniques. When you trap fire, you can never abandon it. In fact, I was 8 when I started studying ceramics, later, starting at 14, I trained for long years at the National Ceramics Schools, and I had some experience in stained glass at that time, until come years ago I went to direct fire with a torch, making contemporary jewelry, and then returned to the path of glass but researching and experimenting and sculptural techniques and in fused glass.

And again I embraced the techniques because the jewelry I was making with silver and precious stones asked me… and this is my current work, parallel to the works I continue doing and displaying. The training of an artist never ends, either through taking specialized seminars or experimenting, but it is an endless process.

Why are animals the central motif? What moves you to engage in artistic creation?

I love animals especially, I don’t understand life without animals. They are the best thing that could happen to us and ironically, we are the worst thing that can happen to them. The love and communication with animals humanizes us. We learn from the to respect others, their vital space, their times and needs. But especially, we learn from animals that unconditional love exists, they loyalty exists and that there is a true relationship that lasts for life.

In animals we don’t expect evil, self-interest or selfishness. We can fail the animals because we tend to be with them like we are with our fellow human beings, but they never will do that to us. And I have a very idealized perspective of human beings, I represent the values I would like for us with animals. Even with the most terrible issues I have a positive and optimistic vision, a vision of real life that flies in the face of reality.

But art tries to express feelings, ideals, create awareness… so it is not my intention to construct my messages with them, they just emerge from me. And I feel like I recognize them. If you look carefully, the most horrendous dramas that humanity suffers, the animals suffer, because we have them living with us and they also die of hunger, bombings, floods, on rafts or in wars… in those in their natural environments are victims of human cruelty, either because we destroy their habitat or because we hunt them without mercy.

Animals are so marvelous that I also owe to them having found my want to express what I feel or am trying to express.

The use of glass and metal make you go back to the origins, especially when your motives are figurative. Do you not call the art conceptual and abstract, which has become every more “fashionable.”

Honestly, I believe that art is abstract; art is always a representation, more or less ties to the real image of what it represents. There is no art without abstraction, and at the same time there is always an intellectual or emotional elaboration. In my case, “abstract” art doesn’t work for me as an expressive language, I don’t see how to represent the drama of a concentration camp, or the drama of the refugees, or whatever it is, it is not with “figurative” elements or high symbolic value.

And it is not just ab out how one uses this language to express it; I believe that it is fundamental that works that have a strong social commitment be “accessible” to the readings of the “spectators”; if not we have more or less beautiful “objects” (taste is always relative) but we are not doing what I understand as art. The rest, of course, is always respectable, if it doesn’t allows a dialog with the viewer and it doesn’t spark feelings, and it only awakes a great aesthetic appreciation, it is “decorative art,” which I would always flee from.

It’s very difficult for me to make utilitarian objects, it horrifies me, working them technically and designing them with no expression; so I know that is not my way although from the economic point of view, clearly I should choose that option.

Your work is halfway between literary editing and Human Rights activist. What do you do to combine this?

I came to the world of editing because I was always a fanatic reader and devoted to books and the worship of the “object” of the book led me to pursue a graduate degree and editing and worked for many years in the most important publishers. There is no work more gratifying than that which allows us to enjoy what we do, and this is true in my case.

Reading is a key trigger in artistic creation, there is nothing like reading to awaken our imagination. The same thing happens to a writer who can never stop reading the work of others to enrich their own production. What in the intellectual world is called “intertextuality” also exists in the world of plastic arts; we are a product even of the genetic memory of our species.

In every artist there is a germ of those who painted the caves of Altamira, the artistic expressions of all peoples of the world, and more recently, individual artists. Throughout history we have had the same need to express, to ask, to thank; it started in the walls of the caves, and we continue it today with many techniques and materials, but the human need was, is and will be the same.

In my case, for multiple reasons and personal experiences, my expressive needs landed on the issue of human rights, of human dignity. But it was not reduced to that but to the feedback with a strong commitment to it and that’s what I spent years doing, not without problems, sacrifices, injustices and misunderstandings. but, aware of being on the right side of History, I resisted everything, not without pain, but I have resisted it.

I always thought I was in a privileged place, to be fighting for those who need help not being one who needs it. So every time I thought I would collapse, I thought about those who needed me, and the conclusion was always the same: if there are those bearing the unbearable and I owe my commitment to them, how can I not bear insults, insults and threats?

Each time I felt I couldn’t do it any more, I thought about the reality of facing prison, torture, persecution and the complete lack of freedom and legal guarantees. And I grew with each disagreeable episode, and curiously, in every moment of these I did my best work.

I feel privileged to be able to do committed art but even more to accompany it with a real commitment to the victims of what I am denouncing. My only regret is not being able to do more; these years of struggle have also make me aware of how limited we are no matter how infinite our effort. But as the Talmud says, “He who saves a life, saves humanity.”

And this is the guiding principle of my life. In the case of Angel Santiesteban, I also help humanity to continue to have an excellent writer, who is so committed to his art, he paid with his freedom, and worse still, he could pay with his life. Caring for Angel, caring for a human being and a great artist.

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Three Al Jazeera Reporters Sentenced to Three Years in Prison in Egypt / Luis Felipe Rojas

3 Sep
The three journalists from the Qatari network Al Jazeera.

The three journalists from the Qatari network Al Jazeera.

AFP/ Khaled Desouki. The journalists from the Qatari network Al Jazeera,  Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, seated in the prisoners’ cell during their trial in Cairo on 29th of August 2015

This Saturday, an Egyptian tribunal sentenced  the three journalists from the Qatari network Al Jazeera to three years in jail,despite the international campaign for their acquittal.

The Australian Peter Greste, the Canadian Mohamed Fahmy and the Egyptian Baher Mohamed were found guilty of having “spread false information” and of having worked in Cairo without the necessary permission.

The judge Hasan Farid also indicated that “they were not journalists” as they hadn’t registered as such with the relevant authorities.

The reporters were accused of having supported by their coverage the Muslim Brotherhood formed by the Islamic President Mohamed Mursi, toppled by the army in 2013.

Fahmy and Mohamed were present at the tribunal and Greste was sentenced in his absence, after having been expelled to Australia in February by presidential decree.

The verdict is “a deliberate attack on freedom of he press” was Al Jazeera’s reaction in a communique.

“The only fair outcome of this case was acquittal” due to the “lack of evidence”, declared Amal Clooney, Fahmy’s lawyer, after the verdict.

Before the hearing, Amal Clooney indicated that there would be meetings with responsible government officials to request, if they should be sentenced, a presidential pardon or expulsion.

Translated by GH

Poetry Saves Me / Luis Felipe Rojas

19 Jun

Luis Felipe Rojas, 3 June 2015 — Once again I am publishing, in liberty, a poetry book: “Machine for erasing humanity” (EriginalBooks, 2015). It confirms that poetry removes the restraints on my life.

I don’t believe that poetry is the “Cinderella” of literary genres. Poetry is the act that leaves the public breathless, the vehicle that sustains the millennial spectacle of lyrics, and it’s outside all logic of the contemporary market. I continue believing in the bard, the troubadour, whom the tribe awaits for news of the shore beyond the river.

Today I feel the joy of sharing with you my sixth book of poetry, my second in the land of liberty, after the generous hands of Armando Añel and Idabel Rosales opened the doors for me in 2013 with “Feeding the dogfight” in Neo Club Editions. On this occasion I am in the hands of the excellent illustrator, Nilo Julián Gonzán Preval, whose magic you may verify throughout the book. Nilo illustrated the first issue of the review Bifronte in 2005: Thanks again, my brother!

It’s the first time that I worked together with Marlene Moleón and Eriginal Books, and I can only be grateful for their counsel on this road that we just began today. The suggestion that Ernesto Valdes lay out the book was primordial. Thank you both.

Luis Felipe Rojas Rosabal, born in San Germán, Holguín, 1971, has published the poetry books Secrets of Monk Louis (Holguín Editions, 2001), Sewer Animal (Ácana, 2005), Songs of bad living (Loynaz, 2005), Obverse of the beloved beast (April, 2006) and Feeding the dogfight (NeoClub, 2013). For his dissident actions he was censored and repudiated by the authorities of his country, where he worked as an independent journalist. He is the author of the blog, Crossing the Barbed Wire. He works for Martí News.

About the illustrator: Nílo Julián González Preval was born in Havana, 1967. Cartoonist. Poet. Painter. Manager of public events. Twelve personal exhibitions, 36 collective exhibitions, 4 individual and several collective awards, more than 200 illustrations published nationally and internationally. Photographer. Artisan. Sculptor. More than 20 personal readings of short stories and poetry. His poems have been published in reviews and newspapers in Cuba and in the world. Director of art and actor in the group OMNI. Cultural promoter in his community. Director of the project of social community intervention, Community Gallery. He is the founder of the group OMNI-Zona Franca, which has carried out more than 200 performances and public, collective and individual actions.

On Friday, June 26, I await you in the salon, The Word Corner, a type of literary cave that the poet Joaquín Galvez has put together for lovers of the arts. The gathering will be in the Café Demetrio, 300 Alhambra Circle, Coral Gables, Miami, FL 33134. The presentation will be at 7:00 p.m.

Translated by Regina Anavy

An Abandoned Doll…at the gates of Miami / Luis Felipe Rojas

6 Jun

Story of an Abandoned Doll, Teatro Pálpito. Photos LFRojas.

Artefactus Teatro has been so kind as to receive Ariel Bouza and his team into its southeast space in Miami. Bouza and company bring a gift from Havana for this April: a loose, free version of Story of an Abandoned Doll by Norge Espinosa, which is from the text by the Spanish playwright Alfonso Sastre.

I traveled far into the southern reaches of Miami to see this play for the second time in my life, having already seen it once in Camagüey. It seems they have taken extra care to conserve the grace with which Paquita and Lolita play with ambition, love, envy, and piety within a theatrical framework that places the performance beyond the fallacies that we so often see in current times.

Ariel Bouza (Teatro Pálpito, Havana) directs the action with equal parts drama, laughter, and reflection to carry the spectators into situations where they must decide who are the heroes and anti-heroes, but there can be no middle ground. This piece that Bouza has been taking to the stage since 1999 has the bonus of ambivalence: it can be viewed and enjoyed equally by children and adults. Sastre’s version is classical, hierarchical, and well placed in the history of modern theater–it is rejuvenated with Bouza’s staging and a good push from Teatro Pálpito.

Gleris Garcés (Lolita) takes all the applause. Though a very young actor he does not lack mastery. The handling of the attire and dolls, the conversation of the voices, and the projection he puts forth in their tones to reach the rearmost seats, earn him the sympathy of the spectators from the very moment he appears on the scene.

With the version by the Cuban critic, playwright and poet Norge Espinosa, something surprising occurs, for it comes to us from the proven hands of Sastre, who, in turn, is filtering through the shadow of The Caucasian Chalk Circle, the well-known play by Bertolt Brecht. The result is unscathed between these two excellent writers who were obligatory reference points in 20th century play-writing.

Both actors, Bouza and Garcés, radiate the splendor of these words that do not go into a vacuum; the theater always serves the people, andHistory of an Abandoned Doll saves its spectators. This morning of Saturday the 4th, there were only five of us in the auditorium, invited to play and to enjoy the work of artists who exemplify dignity in performance. I watched them as if they were performing, ultimately, to a full house–which it was–because every setting is a judgment on how well someone is doing in life who is implicated in this dream: from the lady who cleans the windows to the theater director, who heads up the roster in the playbill.

I invite you all to visit Artefactus Theater, the venue where Teatro Pálpito is celebrating the feast of words and gestures. It is at 12302 SW 133 Court, in Miami.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison and others

                                                                                            




                                                                                                                                                                               

There is a Cuban graffiti artist, in jail because of two pigs named “Fidel” and “Raul”

20 Apr

Graffiti from El Sexto, which simulates a rebel commander well known by Cubans.

 

Luis Felipe Rojas, 16 April 2015 —  His name is Danilo Maldonado, but in Cuba he is known as El Sexto (The Sixth). When the five spies were still in jail in the United States, Maldonado used to say he was the “sixth hero” and started to make graffiti with his spray can on the walls of Havana. This action also took place at the time of the celebration of the Sixth Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba.

On December 25, 2004, Maldonado was detained and since then has been in jail in the horrible prison of Valle Verde. On that day he wanted to release two pigs in Central Park in Havana: they were painted with the names of “Fidel” and “Raul”, and that was enough to send him to prison. The solidarity with this graffiti artist and freelance artist has not stopped, many voices are being raised for his freedom.

Graffiti from El Sexto, near a police station.

Translated by AnonyGY

Seven Steps to Kill Orlando Zapata Tamayo / Luis Felipe Rojas

1 Mar

Orlando Zapata Tamayo

Luis Felipe Rojas — I published this post a few days after that needless death. Now I again denounce the death and express the same ideas about it. It’s my homage to my brother, Orlando Zapata Tamayo.

I am still experiencing the pain caused by that avoidable death, and I feel impotent because I didn’t attend the funeral honoring him due to political impediments, but that hasn’t stopped me from saying that in any case, what I present here seem to be the seven final steps that advanced the repressive machinery used to kill Zapata.

1. Setting up that para-judicial theater that imposed a sentence of 63 years on him for contempt.

2. The continuous beatings accompanied by obscene words and insults about his race and the region where he lived (shitty negro, shitty peasant).

3. Putting him in prisons that were located far away from his mother’s home (Prison Kilo Cinco y Medio in Pinar del Rio, Prison Kilo 8 in Camaguey).

4. The beatings in November 2009 in the Holguin jail when they knocked him down smashing his leg with a steel bar, on his knee cap, and that his mother saw again when she opened the coffin in her house in Banes and also discovered that there were other marks of the beating with clubs that he surely received months before.

5. The forced removal to Camaguey and the robbery of his belongings on December 3 when they confiscated the only food he was eating in prison. This was the fact that made in declare a hunger strike.

6. Taking away water for the 18 days in the middle of the strike even when he had said that he was declaring a hunger strike but would drink small amounts of water.

7. The maneuver of taking him to a hospital for prisoners in Camaguey, west of Havana, and putting him in a room that was not set up for treating prisoners in a grave condition.

I lack the power of analysis in this case, but please don’t keep saying that the government didn’t have a hand in his death. The execution order was given from the office of General Raul Castro Ruz.

Translated by Regina Anavy

23 February 2015

“United States or Die” Demand Cubans in Veracruz / Luis Felipe Rojas

6 Feb

Photo taken by Universo Increible (Incredible Universe)

Rafael Alejandro Hernández Real, who says he was an agent of State Security in Cuba — infiltrated into the Eastern Democratic Alliance — in September 2014 chained himself in the Plaza Bolivar of Bogota, Colombia, and now is on a hunger strike, demanding that he be allowed to go to the United States, according to a report from Universo Increible.

“Ten young Cuban emigrants have declared a hunger and drink strike in the immigration station at Acayucán, in the state of Veracruz, in order to avoid being deported to Cuba. Right now there are seven men and three women. The group of strikers has been increasing before the official denials and threats of being returned to the island,” reports the news source.

Hernández Real made himself known in 2008 when, together with Eliecer Ávila and other students at the University of Information Sciences in Havana, they questioned the then-president of the Peoples’ Power National Assembly. Ricardo Alarcón. On that occasion Ávila and Hernández Real called for the freedom to leave the country, to visit historic sites of the world like “Che Guevara’s tomb in Bolivia,” and they questioned the supposed unanimity of the general voting that takes place in Cuba.

Translated by Regina Anavy

6 February 2015