b. Havana, Cuba, 1971; resides in Havana, Cuba
Presente en tu vida (Present in Your Life)
Mixed media on canvas
Roberto Diago, a graduate of Havana’s Academia San Alejandro in the early 1990s, was influenced by the artwork of his grandfather, after whom he is named. An Afro-Cuban artist focused on the history of slavery, Diago is a critical voice in the discourse of racism in Cuba.
Presente en tu vida (Present in Your Life) centers Diago’s iconic silhouette-figure on raw canvas to echo the clothing worn by slaves. The black and white figure, stark against a red background, has eyes to witness but no mouth or power to speak. A knotted line bisecting the figure suggests rope and skin.
Diago codes Black skin through references to keloids―raised scars from rope bondage or whippings marking enslaved people as property. The work’s title acknowledges extant issues of Black heritage and history and reflects ongoing struggle.
*This piece was included in the exhibition section titled "The Spirit of the Real, The Reality of the Spirit."