an investigative photo documentary

Exclusive 24-page photo essay from our investigative journalist team in collaboration with award-winning photojournalist Orlando García García. Location: Havana, Cuba Copyright Wondereur 2021.

MEET with artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara curated by award-winning curator Catherine Sicot.

Alcantara
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YOU’RE NEVER GOING TO SEE THE SAINT OF MICROSOFT.
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Or the saint of the iron or the refrigerator.
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I’ve worked with religious objects, representations of saints, because they have universal meaning and express feelings of love, hate, suffering, violence.
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In one of my performances, I impersonated a religious person that promised something to the Virgin Mary and started a pilgrimage from Havana to Santiago de Cuba.
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When a man came to me after 200 km of pushing the statue of the Virgin on my cart, I came up with a reason for the trip, something big that was worth fighting for. Something major that had to happen. For that man, seeing that I had walked all this way, somehow helped him to replenish his faith and reconnect with himself, his son, his mom, and his brother.
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I LIKE GOING TO THE EXTREME TO MAKE PEOPLE THINK.
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There are no intellectuals in my family but there are athletes and makers.
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I WAS A PROFESSIONAL ATHLETE FOR MANY YEARS.
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After a while, there was something about sports that I couldn’t fully identify with. In sports, it is all about your physical performance, and if someone needs you to say something, you’ll just have to say it.
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AS AN ATHLETE, I COULDN’T SPEAK UP OR EXPRESS MYSELF.
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What interests me, above everything, is society. I hope for any person - a mechanic, a construction worker - to be impacted by my work. To do that, I have to understand the daily life of every individual: from the woman who washes clothes and the woman who runs a business to the woman who has a child and the battered woman; from the man who is a machista to the man who takes care of the kids and the man who cleans the street.
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AS AN ARTIST, WHEN YOU MAKE AN OBJECT, WHAT YOU ARE REALLY DOING IS MAKING SOMEONE THINK.
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The state doesn’t recognize me as an artist because I didn’t go to art school.
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Cuba is a paternalist country that generates a political, economic, and social structure for those who follow its educational path. You graduate from a school and they give you a card that identifies you as an artist, and gives you benefits according to that. Artists in Cuba are privileged: they belong to a different social class; they can travel abroad easily.
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Now, I realize that an art school is just a building with books and professors. I can find all that on the streets.
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There is almost no access to Internet but every time an artist goes abroad, he or she brings back new material. All of this information travels very fast on USB sticks, through videos and magazines.
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THE INFORMATION IS FILTERED, BUT I CAN STILL GET WHAT I NEED.
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We’re a supposedly closed country but you hang out with artists like Puppy, and they show you the latest things happening in the world.
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IF I WEREN’T AN ARTIST, I’D BE A COW BECAUSE EVERYTHING IN THE COW HAS A USE.
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Cows live super happy lives, eating grass. And from the horns to the feces, everything in the animal can be transformed and used.
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I’D LIKE TO SERVE LIKE THAT, MAKE ART LIKE THAT.