The shipyard painter, political activist and razor-sharp cartoonist Bob Starrett has just written a new book The Way I See It on his eventful life and times. Below we reprint one of his stories and review an essential read
A DOVE struggles free out of a cage and flies across darkened skies to reach the base of the Jose Marti monument in Havana.
Painted by Antonio Guerrero, the image from the series Flight To Freedom symbolises the fate and aspirations of the Miami Five, imprisoned in the US in 2001.
They were detained on trumped-up charges of espionage and conspiracy to murder after a court case notorious for a judiciary so servile to political expediency that it would embarrass any democracy worthy of the name.
Guerrero's paintings and drawings are part of a touring art exhibition organised by the Cuba Solidarity Campaign that drew crowds last week to London contemporary art hub Cork Street. It continues from next Monday in Glasgow's Lighthouse Gallery.
Beyond The Frame aims to highlight the plight of the Five and raise funds for the campaign to have them freed.
Guerrero's sister Mari-Eugenia Guerrero and his octogenarian mother Mirtha Rodriguez told the Morning Star they believed only international pressure can secure the release of the remaining four as the fifth, Rene Gonzalez, has been paroled since October last year.
Both demonstrate an enviable fighting spirit, evidently lifted by hundreds of visitors to the show on the first two days.
They have both become ambassadors for the cause and are explicit in their conviction that solidarity will see that all four are free one day soon, with a presidential pardon the most obvious avenue.
Both are edified by the integrity the five have shown in prison, pointing to the art work of Guerrero and the biting political cartoons of Gerardo Hernandez.
Guerrero, who learned to paint from a fellow inmate, now runs his own painting classes.
Mirtha, who worked in a regional communications office, is particularly appreciative of the art on display.
It includes internationally recognised Cubans Kcho, Choco, Diago, Mendive, Lesbia Dumois and British artists John Keane, Susan Hillier, Steve Bell and Kennardphillips.
Two of the Cuban artists present, Lesbia Dumois and Eduardo Salazar (Choco), exalt the common patriotic cause of the exhibition, emphasising the vanguard role played by art in Cuba despite the privations and scarcity of materials.
Both have already seen their work sold on the opening night and ooze optimism for the future.
Choco's highly textured work, centered on the human figure, draws inspiration from the richness of the island's everyday cultural practice, particularly the popular religious ritual embodied in santeria.
Pressed on how all this fits into socialism he laughs, simply saying: "It is socialism."
He points out that Cuban art has had a presence in the world predating the revolution by many decades, but the revolution allowed access to art education to thousands who could never before even dream of it.
Dumois, whose playful, colourful figurative work is permeated with a characteristic Cuban penchant for light-hearted irony, is particularly proud of the large numbers of women now practising in all disciplines, including the previous male preserves of sculpture and etching.
Both return to Cuba - Choco via an exhibition of his work in Boston - inspired by the impact of this groundbreaking show of British-Cuban solidarity for the Five.
Both signal the need to see the massive potential of the arts in promoting truth and justice by opening new, unexpected vistas and even anticipate a change in political moods.
By the end of the week over 1,000 people visited this impressively curated exhibition in London.
Supported by trade unions, art collectors and rank-and-file activists, it raised well over £30,000.
It continues next week in Glasgow and hopefully it'll make a similar impact.
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