The Cuban artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara says that he is in exclusive possession of Fidel Castro’s last will and testament. The young Havana-based artist and his partner, the curator Yanelys Nuñez Leyva, will present its contents today (24 January) in a performance at the 13th Hors Pistes festival at the Centre Pompidou in Paris.
“The image of Fidel is sacred in Cuba,” Otero Alcántara says. After the Communist leader’s death in November 2016, Cuba’s National Assembly passed a law prohibiting public spaces from being named after him or monuments in his image. The decision followed his dying wish to avoid a cult of personality. But Otero Alcántara says he had a dream in which Castro revealed to him the location of his true final testament. Now the artist wishes to make it public in the hope of reconciling the Cuban nation.
Though no official charges were ever brought against Otero Alcántara, he says that Cuban police threatened him for planning the Castro performance. The self-taught artist, who has created controversial works on topics ranging from religion to art institutions, has been repeatedly arrested and interrogated since last November. In 2016, he launched an online platform called the Museum of Dissidence, which documents the history of political dissidents in Cuba.
Otero Alcántara is also among the co-founders—together with Nuñez Leyva, Tania Bruguera and Coco Fusco—of the #00Bienal in Havana, which is due to run from 5 to 15 May as a crowdfunded alternative to the 13th Havana Biennial. Many Cuban artists “are still afraid to participate, since there has been a lot of pressure from the government on dissident art”, he says. But after Castro’s death, “there is a fighting spirit, especially among a younger generation of artists”. Read more