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Interview with Angel Boligan, Cuban artist & activist

Interview with Angel Boligan, Cuban artist & activist
BANKERS AND BUSINESSMEN Walk together with pep-percorn-sized heads and big swollen bellies. A child plugs his Sony PlayStation into Picasso's Guerica.

Men and women sit on either end of a park bench, looking lovingly into the screens of their laptop com-puters. You don't know whether to laugh or weep. So you begin to think about this, imagine that. And somewhere near the bottom the cartoon is signed: Boligan.

Born in Cuba and now living in Mexico, Angel Boli-gan is one of the most gifted and prolific artist/activ-ists working today. If there is a connecting thread in his illustrations, it is perhaps a capacity for locating collective pain and a knack for using comedy to enhance the horrors he sees. After featuring Angel's illustrations in over a dozen issues of CD four of which were covers - we finally caught up with the heart behind the hand.

 I find your work to be equally postioned in journalism and poetry. Generally speaking, do you feel closer to journalists or poets?

Angel Boligan: I'm an artist in terms of journalism.

For me the graphic is very important and a perfect caricature must have a good balance between content and form. I do not like to explain my pictures, as I do not like to explain the words in my last email.

I like to fly the imagination of people to discover the message or messages and for that I turn to the met-aphor, poetry. It's a recipe with humour, journalism and graphic poetry. Humour is a weapon aimed at the

sonrisa to stick on the head! um: What is your family background, Angel?

Angel Boligan: My parents are of peasant origin; my grandparents were devoted to farming, my mother worked as a laborer in a clothing factory and my father as a textile colorist. Now both are retired and living in the small town where I was born called San Antonio de Baths in Cuba.

um: When did politics begin to emerge in your art-work? Was there a special issue or event that lit the spark in you?

Angel Boligan : I think being born and raised in Cuba, a country in revolution, declared socialist and in constant conflict with the United States, allows us to participate and be involved in the process of all forms. From my beginning in a 1980 cartoon, political issues were present in my work. From that very first moment I knew that if I devoted myself to the cartoon for the rest of my life I could develop the skills and keep as much passion today as that first day.

Um: Tell me about the time surrounding your move from Cuba to Mexico, that being 1992, during Cuba's

Angel Boligan: During the decade of the 8os I worked very hard in Cuba, published in various media and earned national and international awards. In 1992 I received an invitation to an exhibition at the Cartoon Museum in Mexico City, and as a matter of chance or fate, the very same day I got to Mexico City I had an invitation to collaborate in the newspaper El Universal, who I collaborate with to this day. Mexico is only two hours away by plane from Havana and the publishing market there is huge, so I was very easily attracted to it as a place to further develop my work at full speed.

Um: Does that mean you have free rein at El Universal to deal with any subject you like, in any manner you choose?

Angel Boligan: In Mexico I enjoy the "freedom" and access to information by all possible means, access to technology that I apply to my work, and freedom to travel without restrictions. That said, I think full freedom of expression does not exist in any country. um: What do you think of Cuba today and how the country is evolving?

Angel Boligan: I think that to avoid the risk of being toppled, the government of Cuba stopped moving quickly, failing to realize that with the free participation of all its educated and capable citizens it can fly. With certain recent reforms, it has taken a timid step forward, but it needs to speed things up.

um: Had you stayed in Cuba, do you think you would have developed along similar lines?

Angel Boligan:  I am very persistent and would have tried to develop my career in every way possible, even if I had not taken the path toward Mexico. Of course I do feel this move has been important in my life and career, having these two experiences of living in two different political systems, especially personal experiences that speak a thousand theories.

um: There is a distinct absence of text in your work.

Are you opposed to using words? Do you believe there is always a way to convey a message or an idea purely from image?

Angel Boligan: Yes! You can always make a lint without using words and it is more universal. Nature speaks to us with images and we understand perfectly. For exam-ple, a green fruit tells us not to eat, a yellow or red fruit tells us that we can eat. Drawings can also use colours for transmitting messages. This is a wonder-ful, ongoing challenge for me.

um: Ecology looms large in your art. How did you come to such a profound environmental consciousness?

Angel Boligan:  Having had the opportunity to live in the country in direct contact with nature, and living today in a big city, is a unique experience that triggers my con-science.

Um: Gabriel García Márquez once described his heart as having "more rooms than a whorehouse." I've heard that you admire Márquez very much and I wonder how you would illustrate your own heart?

Angel Boligan: I have sent you a drawing that says, "My heart has a memory.”


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