Havana, Cuba: Where there is passion there is art

Havana, Cuba: Where there is passion there is art

I truly, honestly hate to admit this, but I left Cuba with a sense of relief.

I had let the hustling get to me, and I knew it. The worst part? I also knew I had missed out on creating a connection with probably the most passionate people I had travelled among to date. And I loath myself for it.

My physical discomfort in the heat & humidity, and emotional wear & tear of being an obvious cash target on a multitude of levels had me thinking, ‘Glad I’ve seen it, now let’s go!’ as I rejoined the Fairwinds – 6 months after our time together in the North Sea – and got ready to sail to Jamaica. Now, as I think back and flip through my photographs and sketchbooks, I am not so sure I feel the same way. Now I know how I will do it differently for next time.

Good art, art that pulls in its audience, makes you stop and think, coaxes buyers out of the crowd, is built on a foundation of passion. The more I learn about marketing myself the more I realize ‘making it’ as an artist has less to do with execution of fine detail and calculated studies of colour theory, and more to do with connection. We human beings are drawn to passion. Infuse your music/movie/painting/ performance piece with what drives you, your raison d’être, and people will stop and stare. Hopefully some of that staring will be the good kind.

I stood in Havana’s National Museum of Fine Arts surrounded by canvases saturated with colour, a revolution animated with slashing brush strokes, reds and greens, modern and contemporary art flavoured à la cubain. New to me names such as Raúl Martinez, Víctor Manuel García, Eduardo Abela, Augusto Oliva Blay, and so many more I should have written down but did not, typed neatly on cards next to each piece. It was my last few days in Havana, I should have visited this museum first.


Raúl Martínez – ‘Isla 70’, 1970


Augusto Oliva Blay – ‘El malecón’, 1929   Víctor Manuel García – ‘Paisaje con parejas’, 1943       Eduardo Abela – ‘Guaritos’, 1938

The collections in the fine arts museum showed me the heart of a people I was missing while wandering the city streets. These paintings had no eyes to judge my face as other nor my pocketbook as enviable. They were created through passion for a Cuban audience. I felt as though I had been let in on a secret, allowed entry to a hidden garden where real life bloomed.

Habana Vieja is filled with art, everything from:

graffiti & street art


murals & mosaics


bronze statues, living statue performance artists, wandering street musicians


pieces inspired by revolutionary personalities


to artist ateliers and curated galleries


All of it … well, ok, lots of it filled with delicious passion. I snapped photos, as per usual, an automated response from my experiences travelling through other art filled cities. I am not sure I really appreciated it until after my visit to the museum, tho.

As I flip through memories of my time spent in Cuba I am starting to feel the growth of a desire to return. But next time I will reach out to the art community, create connections before I arrive and am swallowed up by stereotypes and tourist roles. Find a way through that back door, into the secret garden, and hopefully connect with this passionate people as a colleague instead of a foreigner.

And maybe go in the winter, when it is not so hot.


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