Academic journal article Afro - Hispanic Review

Art and Diaspora: A Conversation with María Magdalena Campos-Pons

Academic journal article Afro - Hispanic Review

Art and Diaspora: A Conversation with María Magdalena Campos-Pons

Article excerpt

William Luis: Magda, welcome to Nashville. This is significantly, I should say, the seventh night that you will be in Nashville. And as we know, seven is a special number for you, which we will talk about. You arrived on Sunday, and you've had wonderful interactions with the people in Nashville at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts where you are exhibiting, and also at the Fine Arts Gallery at Vanderbilt University, so I also wanted to welcome you to Nashville. I wanted to have a conversation about your art, who you are, the symbols you work with, and ideas you want to convey to your audience.1 I would like to touch upon some of those ideas.

As a way of starting our conversation, I am drawn to the fact that you were born in 1959, which is the year of the triumph of the Cuban Revolution, and the year, of course, is important, but so is that for other writers and artists. I think about Domingo Sarmiento, who was born in 1810, and his birth coincides with the initiation of the Republic of Argentina. I think of your Cuban compatriot Daisy Rubiera Castillo, who interviewed her mother, who at that time claimed she was born in 1902, which marked the beginning of the Republic. And through Reyita, Sencillamente, we have an idea of how the Republic unfolds from the perspective of an Afro-Cuban woman. So, I wanted to start with 1959, and ask how do you see yourself marking that particular stage in your life and in history, as part of your generation, but also as part of a black woman born in 1959?

María Magdalena Campos-Pons: Well, Professor Luis, it is my pleasure to be in Nashville. Thank you for welcoming me here, and as you said, I had seven days of amazing interaction with everybody, not only the staff at the Frist, the faculty, students, and other members of the community. It was full of revelations and new ideas for me. As for 1959, I usually do not think to link the year of my birth as a defining point with the history of the Cuban Revolution. It happened. I am actually an accident in the planning of my family, so I was kind of a serendipitous thing that happened to them. I don't really frame the thinking of my own biography and my own experience yet in the very large historical context that you just mentioned. Yes, 1959 was a very important year in the history of Cuba, and I happened to have been born that year. From that point of view, it was almost like a historical coincidence. So, what I am thinking, of course, at this moment and time, you know, I am 52, half century and two years, no? Maybe it's about time for me to try to understand the implication of that. I definitely have been involved in and represent a lot of what was marked by the Cuban Revolution. I was educated in the system that was put in place by the regime of Castro. At the same time, I come from a very traditional family, so there were a lot of contradictions and affirmations. And I think that maybe that those might be what complicate the aspects of my upbringing as a woman who happened to have been born in the middle of the unfolding of this new revolution, and social, political, economic, and cultural, to some extent, changes that were brought upon Cuba with the revolution. But I am trying to keep myself as still open to thinking of what is next? How do I mark the time today rather than contextualize myself in the chronology of Cuba? I welcome when somebody like you brings it to me. It's charming and challenging at that same time, but I tend to think less in that direction.

WL: Yes, I think that that is our responsibility as critics and those of us who admire your work and begin to see how you express yourself and how your work fits in with those of other artists, but also how it fits in with history, with politics, with music, and how it fits in with other variables that are also very much in your work. What I am looking at is how you work with issues of identity. In fact, you have a piece which says that identity is a trap, in some respects . …

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