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UBC Theses and Dissertations

"Neither red nor black!" : Cuba, Africa, and the politics of posters Rodrigues, Sadira Elfrieda

Abstract

This thesis investigates the production of a body of posters in Cuba by the Organisation in Solidarity with the Peoples of Asia, Africa and Latin America (OSPAAAL) between 1967 and 1972. OSPAAAL's posters have become one of Cuba's most popular forms of mass culture, reaching production levels of five million by the 1970s. Shipped to progressive bookstores and households across Europe and North America, OSPAAAL's posters vied for the attention of youth audiences sympathetic to the burgeoning anti-capitalist movements emerging around the world. Following their first production in 1967, OSPAAAL's posters adopted a new hybridised form that combined the internationalism of Western aesthetics such as Pop Art, Op Art, and Psychedelic Art, with Afro-Cuban symbols, references to Cuba's historical past. Producing a new visual language, OSPAAAL's posters have been charged with propelling the concerns of Cuban culture onto the international stage in the 1960s. But the use of references to Afro-Cubans revealed a complicated negotiation of racial concerns that continued to persist in Cuban society. What functions would the adoption of Afro-Cuban symbols play when translated from nationalist images into internationalist icons? Did the integrationist desire of the Revolution in creating a unified concept of nationhood mask other social and economic conditions within Cuba? It is this core motivation behind the production of OSPAAAL's posters that will form the basis of this discussion. In OSPAAAL's posters, the Revolution would discover a means of expressing a new historical consciousness, one that would provide a place of privilege to Afro-Cubans. Through the production of these posters, the Revolution felt it could convey to Afro- Cubans their commitment to the recovery of their historical roots.

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