Diango Hernandez uses art to express Cuban identity

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In the manner of a Caribbean Roy Lichtenstein, Cuba’s Diango Hernandez starts with a simple shape, the curve of a wave, to embody emblematic Cuban texts ranging from the poetry of Jose Marti to the speeches of Fidel Castro.

Hernandez, who lives in Germany, is in Havana for the opening of his first exhibition in his homeland in 13 years.

The show, called “Salvavidas” (Life-preserver), comprises mainly works based on Marti’s volume of poetry “Versos Sencillos” (Simple Verses), which has served the artist as a kind of psychic life-preserver since he left Cuba two decades ago.


“It’s fine to travel, but when you decide to live abroad, gravity grows stronger and pulls you down. I spent five years living in Europe, but without reaching Europe,” he told EFE.

Hernandez said that it was in texts deeply rooted in the Cuban collective psyche where he found the strength to cope with life as an expat and the inspiration to create a visual “idiom” of waves and curves in which to represent the words.

Each curve in his paintings, sculptures and installation pieces corresponds to a letter, and an individual work can contain a poem or a Castro speech in its entirety, though it is not possible to actually read the words.

The aim is to “transform very specific cultural things into universals,” Hernandez said.

“Salvavidas” includes a score of paintings Hernandez brought with him from Germany and three pieces - two sculptures and an iron installation - created in Havana using the traditional techniques of the forge.