xHgGrtG-show-poster2x3-aXpIxNN.png

Artbound

Start watching
Tending Nature show poster

Tending Nature

Start watching
IYhnPQZ-show-poster2x3-Ytk6YwX.png

Southland Sessions

Start watching
RYQ2PZQ-show-poster2x3-OGargou.jpg

Earth Focus

Start watching
5LQmQJY-show-poster2x3-MRWBpAK.jpg

Reporter Roundup

Start watching
E5VnHdZ-show-poster2x3-PrXshoo.png

City Rising

Start watching
QraE2nW-show-poster2x3-uY3aHve.jpg

Lost LA

Start watching
Member
Your donation supports our high-quality, inspiring and commercial-free programming.
Support Icon
Learn about the many ways to support KCET.
Support Icon
Contact our Leadership, Advancement and Special Events teams.

Histories Absolved: Revolutionary Cuban Poster Art and the Muslim International

62_103_1_600.jpg
Lázaro Abrue Padrón | 1968, Silk-screen print

In partnership with The Los Angeles/Islam Arts Initiative to bring together nearly 30 cultural institutions throughout Los Angeles to tell various stories of traditional and contemporary art from multiple Islamic regions and their significant global diasporas.

An intriguing, and jarring, collection of politically charged posters is on view this Saturday at the Medina art space on the Chung King Road gallery row in Chinatown. Products of the Cuban revolution in the 20th century, these images were created to express the island nation's solidarity with Muslim liberation movements in the Middle East. The title of this exhibition, "Histories Absolved: Revolutionary Cuban Poster Art and the Muslim International" is taken from the famous 1953 peroration that Fidel Castro delivered in court as a defendant on trial for attacks against the Bautista regime: "History will absolve me."

Faustino Pérez Organero | 1968 Offset print  |  21 ¼   x 13 inches. From the archives of Sohail Daulatzai
Faustino Pérez Organero | 1968 Offset print

The posters in this exhibition were all produced by the Organization of Solidarity with the People of Asia, Africa and Latin America, a graphic design entity launched by the Cuban government in the mid-1960s. OSPAAAL's primary mission was to create agitprop posters with images and messages supporting the activities of anti-imperialist militants and leftist vanguard governments in the three geopolitical regions identified in its moniker. These posters were then distributed around Cuba and around the globe as folded inserts in the political magazine Tricontinental.

Though OSPAAAL's subjects included revolutionary figures and freedom fighters in a variety of conflict regions, all of the images in "Histories Absolved" specifically illustrate Arab and Muslim struggles. Curated by University of California-Irvine professor Sohail Daulatzai, author of the 2012 book "Black Star, Crescent Moon: The Muslim International and Black Freedom Beyond America," from his personal collection of original OSPAAAL posters, the show includes 19 pieces produced between 1968 and 1983. Because they were destined for international viewing, these posters all featured texts in four languages: Spanish, English, Arabic, and French.

Rolando Córdoba Cabeza | 1979. Offset print | 28 x 17 ¼  inches. From the archives of Sohail Daulatzai
Rolando Córdoba Cabeza | 1979. Offset print

Daulatzai finds the roots of Latino-Arab political solidarity manifested by these posters in a statement by the 19th century political writer Jose Martí, whom Castro identified in his 1953 court speech as "the intellectual author of [Cuba's] revolution, the apostle of our independence." Campaigning on behalf of the northern Morocco Berber community's ambitions to gain independence from Spanish rule, Martí wrote in 1893 that "We are all Moors!" Implicit in this statement was the assertion not only of a common cause, but also a common historical past, between two peoples on separate continents dating back to 1492, when both the Moors were expelled from Spain and Christopher Columbus initiated the conquest of the Americas.

The first thing a viewer walking into the Medina gallery notices in these posters is all the rifles: no fewer than 15 out of the 19 images here feature big guns in the hands (or, in one case, the eyes) of the militant brethren imagined by the artists of OSPAAAL (and a 16th poster implies a fire bombing). The unified message in all these posters is a clear call for revolutionaries in the Middle East to take up arms against their enemies.

Olivio Martinez Viera | 1972. Offset print | 20 ¾  x 13 inches. From the archives of Sohail Daulatzai
Olivio Martinez Viera | 1972. Offset print

The posters endorse a variety of communities and causes in Middle East politics. One piece expressing solidarity with Libya, for example, dates to 1983, a year when the U.S. bombed that country. Another poster, from 1979, declares "Union is Victory" in Lebanon. On the occasion of the 30th anniversary of Egypt's 1952 revolution, one poster celebrates the figure of its leader Gamal Abdel Nasser, perhaps in an implicitly contrasting rebuke to the recently assassinated Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, who had reached a peace agreement with Israel. Four apocalyptic horsemen in another piece from 1972 ride on behalf of pan-Arab nationalization of the region's oil production. Two posters support the movement for liberation of the western Sahara from Moroccan domination, one explicitly celebrating the Frente Polisario and another offering a choice between "Independence or Genocide."

A couple of the works on display express support for the Syrian regime of Hafez al-Assad, father and predecessor of the country's current leader, accused war criminal Bashar al-Assad. Several posters express solidarity with the Palestinians in their conflict with Israel. One ambiguously messaged image from '83 declares "Afghanistan Defends its Revolution," a statement perhaps at odds with Castro's declared endorsement of the Soviet invasion of that country a few years earlier. Another from 1969 endorses Yemen independence.

"Histories Absolved: Revolutionary Cuban Poster Art and the Muslim International" at Medina, 977 ½ Chung King Road, this Saturday, December 13, from 6 to 9 p.m.

Rafael Morante Boyerizo | 1983. Offset print | 23 x 17 inches. From the archives of Sohail Daulatzai
Rafael Morante Boyerizo | 1983. Offset print

Dig this story? Sign up for our newsletter to get unique arts & culture stories and videos from across Southern California in your inbox. Also, follow Artbound on Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube.

Support Provided By
Support Provided By
Read More
Pacific Division Officer Hoskins tries to pry open the door of a truck involved in a accident that left the driver and passenger locked in the overturned vehicle. | Joseph Rodriguez

'90s Photos of LAPD Reveal a City in Pain

Joseph Rodriguez’s photographs of the LAPD in 1994 is a deeply personal, political act that still resonates in today’s political climate.
Carla Jay Harris "Sphinx," 2019. Archival pigment print. Two panels, 40 x 30 in. each. The work features a beautiful Black woman wearing a dark blue dress kneeling down in a golden meadow under a starry sky and bright orange sun. | Courtesy the artist

Now More Than Ever: The Need for Alternative Cultural Spaces

Learn more about the spaces filling the holes left behind by the historically white-centric L.A. art world.
Aerial view of Watts Towers Arts Center | Still from "Watts Towers Arts Center" ab s11

Stretching Out into the Community: Five Key Watts Artists Who Helped Shape American Art

Meet the core artists who were the vanguards of the West Coast edition of the Black Arts Movement: Betye Saar, Noah Purifoy, John Outterbridge and Jayne Cortez.