Category Archives: Artists and Arts Watch

CUBA HARASSES, DETAINS ACTIVISTS ON EVE OF PLANNED PROTEST ·

People hang Cuban flags over the windows of Yunior Garcia Aguilera’s home in an attempt to stop him from communicating with the outside, in Havana, Cuba, Sunday, Nov. 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Ramon Epinosa)

(Mary Beth Sheridan’s article appeared in the Washington Post, 11/15; via the Drudge Report.)

Security forces surrounded the homes of Cuban activists on Sunday, the day before a planned march that will test the strength of the protest movement that erupted last summer when Cubans poured into the streets to demand more political freedoms on the communist-ruled island.

The best-known organizer of Monday’s protest, 39-year-old playwright Yunior García Aguilera, had announced he would march alone through Havana at 3 p.m. on Sunday, carrying a white rose in solidarity with Cubans who had been prevented from participating the following day. But hours before he set out, plainclothes police swarmed his block and besieged his building. He tried to signal to journalists from his apartment, displaying a white sheet in support of the protests, and a rose. People dropped giant Cuban flags over the side of the building to cover the windows.

“We all know we can be detained within a few hours,” García Aguilera said in a Facebook Live post on Sunday morning, appearing nervous but calm. “I will face this with dignity. I believe this country will change.”

He called on people around the nation to clap at 3 p.m. to show their “thirst for freedom,” but there did not appear to be a widespread response. “I won’t renounce my ideas,” he told The Washington Post later Sunday. He said, however, he was penned in by hundreds of security forces outside his home. “The lives of my family members are in danger,” he said.

Cuban authorities had hoped to celebrate the island’s grand reopening to tourists on Monday, following a coronavirus shutdown of nearly 20 months that has crippled an already weak economy. Instead, the day has become symbolic of the confrontation between the government and pro-democracy activists.

Thousands of Cubans, fed up with food shortages, a battered health system and electricity blackouts, spontaneously joined demonstrations last July. They were the biggest protests in six decades.

Activists planned a nationwide “Civic March for Change” on Monday. But with the advance warning, the government has moved aggressively to derail another massive protest. It denied the organizers a permit, claiming they were tied to “subversive organizations” financed by the U.S. government.

n recent days, García Aguilera said, his phone lines and Internet connection were cut. Authorities summoned independent Cuban journalists and activists for questioning and warned they could face charges of public disorder.

On Sunday, the crackdown intensified. Several government critics, including Washington Post opinion contributor Abraham Jiménez Enoa, said that security forces were preventing them from leaving their homes. The Facebook forum Archipiélago, run by García Aguilera and other activists, reported that its moderator, Daniela Rojo, had vanished. Security forces detained another leader of the site, Carlos Ernesto Diaz Gonzalez, in the city of Cienfuegos, according to Archipiélago. The government suspended the credentials of several Havana-based reporters working for EFE, the Spanish news agency.

Journalists who drove to García Aguilera’s apartment building on Sunday morning were driven away by pro-government demonstrators, the playwright said. Several hours later, he appeared at his window, brandishing a white rose, according to reporters at the scene. At one point, he flashed a sign reading: “My house is blocked.” That’s when people on the roof unfurled giant Cuban flags that cascaded down the side of the three-story building, cutting him off from view.

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ARTISTS AND ARTS WATCH: THE WRITING’S ON THE WALL FOR KABUL’S STREET ART SCENE ·

(Amy Kazmin’s article appeared in the Financial Times, 9/9; street painting depicting Farkhunda Malikzada, a 27-year-old woman who was lynched by a mob in Kabul in March 2015 © Yaghobzadeh Alfred/ABACA/Reuters.)

The city’s domineering blast walls were a canvas for colourful murals 

They were afraid of these murals and they had a very clear plan for them,” says artist Omaid Sharifi, co-founder of the grassroots movement Artlords, which mobilised Afghans to paint more than 2,000 murals across the country. “They knew that these murals were the soul of Kabul city, and they wanted to destroy — silence — the soul of Kabul.” The first Taliban regime, from 1996 to 2001, was a time of extreme hardships for the country’s artists, as an extreme, dour, joyless interpretation of Islamic law was enforced. Arts and entertainment — even television and videos in private homes — were banned by fundamentalist leaders who believed photography violated the Islamic injunction against idolatry. In their zeal, the Taliban blew up two monumental 6th-century Bamiyan Buddhas — an act of cultural vandalism that provoked global outrage.

Music was prohibited, instruments smashed, with brutal punishments for anyone who broke the rules. Many Afghans hoped the Taliban — who have embraced social media with gusto — might have grown more tolerant of arts and cultural expression over the past two decades. But the destruction of Kabul’s murals, Sharifi said, has made clear that the new regime will not tolerate any voices other than their own.

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ARTISTS AND ARTS WATCH: PUSSY RIOT’S ALYOKHINA GIVEN ONE YEAR OF ‘RESTRICTED FREEDOM’ AS ANOTHER RUSSIAN OPPOSITION FIGURE IS CONVICTED IN ‘SANITARY CASE’ ·

(Johnny Tickle’s article appeared on RT, 9/11; Photo: (t0p) Russian political activist and member of the punk band and activist group Pussy Riot Maria Alyokhina. © Vasily MAXIMOV / AFP.; (bottom) Pitchfork.com.)

One of the leading stars of the Russian punk rock protest group Pussy Riot, Maria Alyokhina, has been sentenced to one year of restricted freedom in the so-called ‘sanitary case’ that has also seen measures placed on five others.

The court found Alyokhina guilty of inciting people to gather for unauthorized protests in violation of restrictions aimed at preventing the spread of Covid-19. Some opposition figures have slammed the charge as a convenient way of silencing an anti-Kremlin voice.

Accusations of breaking sanitary rules have been leveled against 10 associates of jailed opposition figure Alexey Navalny, who took part in protests earlier this year to demand that he be released from prison. Navalny is currently serving time behind bars for breaching the terms of a suspended sentence handed to him for his involvement in a fraud scheme concerning French cosmetics firm Yves Rocher. His supporters claim the judgment was politically motivated.

Alyokhina is the latest to have her freedom restricted by court order, following in the footsteps of Navalny’s close ally Lubov Sobol and his spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh, among others. Liusya Shtein, another Pussy Riot member, has also been given a similar sentence.

The restrictions include a curfew and a ban against traveling outside Moscow Region. Two of those who received court orders, Sobol and Yarmysh, fled abroad before their sentences could be imposed.

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