The latest in a series of blows on artistic expression, artist Hamlet Lavastida was arrested by Cuban authorities.
According to a report by Deutsche Welle, Lavastida was arrested on June 26 in Havana, few days after he had returned to the country. Hamlet Lavastida was in Berlin for many months for his residency at Künstlerhaus Bethanien. Reportedly, he is being kept at the Villa Marista prison. Lavastida was arrested while being under the mandatory quarantine period enforced in Cuba for all international travelers.
James Mayor, the dealer who represents Lavastida said this regarding his arrest:
“It is tragic. He is a sweet person, and his while his works are political in nature, it is in a heartfelt way. He was not just on the political bandwagon. I do not understand why people are so afraid of art.”
Lavastida is an outspoken critic of the Cuban government and a free speech advocate. He is a member of N27, a group of Cuban activists against government restrictions on artistic freedom. One of the artworks Lavastida presented in Berlin was the confession under interrogation of Cuban visual artist Javier Cosa in 2010. He also recently contributed to “Padilla’s Shadow”. The project included the 1971 anti-censorship statement of Cuban poet Heberto Padilla.
Over the past few years, the Cuban government has been making moves against free expression and for censorship. In 2018, Decree 349 – a law that mandates seeking permission before the public exhibition of artworks – came into effect. The law was panned by the artistic community both within Cuba and outside. In December 2020, a delegation of protestors met with the government for repealing the law, but nothing came out of it. In February, a petition demanding the removal of Alpidio Alonso (the culture minister of Cuba) was signed by 9000 people.