Capturing Castro, Che and Cuba on lens

By Madhusree Chatterjee, IANS
Wednesday, December 22, 2010

NEW DELHI - The saga of the building of Cuba as a nation after the revolution is on display in the Indian capital, thanks to Mexican photographer Rodrigo Moya who captured its growth after the revolution in his camera.

In 1964, on a visit to Cuba, he clicked hundreds of memorable moments, mostly journalistic snapshots of the revolution and rebuilding of Cuba with Fidel Castro in his fiery avatar, inspiring the people of the island nation to build a new national order.

Che, one of the leading figures in the movement, became a man in Moya’s lens, shedding his revolutionary garb to indulge in spots of rare leisure and laughter. He was involved in the process of setting up the government and formulating a new polity.

An abridged version of Moya’s “Cuba Mia” collection arrived Tuesday evening at the Insituto Cervantes in the Indian capital. The exhibition is made of 80 rare black and white impressions of Cuba.

“The photographs have been divided into segments to portray Che’s moods. The exhibition is an attempt by Moya to establish the thematic and visual route the emblematic Cuba had taken at the beginning of the revolution,” Nitesh Gurbani, cultural programme coordinator of Instituto Cervantes, told IANS.

The photographs were chronicled in a chronological sequence by Moya with accompanying texts for a book which was not published.

Fortyfive years later, more than 100 unedited photographs and footage of Moya’s Cuba chronicles were acquired by the Casa de America in Catalonia, Spain for a historic showcase, “Cuba Mia”, and seen for the first time in an exhibition in Barcelona in 2009.

The octogenarian Moya cherishes fond memories of Cuba.

“In 1964, I travelled to Cuba for the first time and for weeks took photographs which were to be included in a book that did not see the light for various reasons. Things happened on the island in such a spontaneous and dynamic way that there was no hope to approach them from a different angle. In each case, it was a chance find or discovery,” he recalled in a message for the exhibition here.

The collection displayed here is divided into segments like “Infancy”, “Dance and Music of Cuba”, “The Force” and “Rebuilding of Rural and Urban Havana”, “Education” and “Employment”, narrating the story of Cuba’s evolution as a new nation under Castro.

Moya, a talented portrait photographer, caught the man in Che in a variety of moods in a series called the “el Che”. A panel of 12 photographs showing the revolutionary as “Melancholic Che”, “Jovial Che”, “Chatterbox Che” and “Brave Che” rivets the viewer with its detail of expression, photographic angles, play of light and sparks of life that the portraits conveys.

The revolutionary is photographed seated on a chair in front of an old wooden table with his guard lowered. In most of the frames, he laughs into the lens - the crows’ feet of relief and laughter fanning out from his eyes.

They were shot three years before his death. Che died Oct 9, 1967.

Che was a Marxist revolutionary and a physician who played a key role in the Cuban revolution, along with Fidel Castro and brother Raul Castro.

Besides the images of the Cuban revolutionaries in uniform, including women, the inundated disembarkation point for the rebel army, Fidel Castro addressing his nation, cooperative farming, literacy and popular cultural movements of Cuba are vivid - in expression - and packed with action.

The exhibition has been curated by Marta Nin and Claudi Carreras. It will close Jan 28.

(Madhusree Chatterjee can be contacted at

Filed under: Politics

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