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Ode to the Archipelago

Lydia Cabrera (second from right) with a group of informants, Central Cuba, undated. Cuban Heritage Collection, University of Miami Libraries, Coral Gables, Florida.  

October 19, 2018

If you are looking to refresh yourself with something completely different, try walking into the hushed exhibition rooms of the Americas Society at 680 Park Avenue in New York. It is almost impossible not to be captivated by the quiet explosion of Latin American wit, shimmering colour, emotional power and playful humour on display.

In one cabinet, a sketchbook no larger than a postage stamp is filled with sketches and notes by the great Cuban writer Lydia Cabrera. Nearby, next to a photograph of Cabrera laughing, is a first edition of her 1954 masterpiece of Afro-Cuban lore El Monte — a near untranslatable term that implies spiritual homecoming but also fearsome wilderness.

Next to it is a characteristic Afro-Cuban sketch by Wifredo Lam, the painter, and under that a Lam-illustrated first edition of Aimé Césaire’s masterwork, Retorno al Pais Natal, published in Havana in 1942.

Read the full review here. 

Learn more about the exhibition, running through January 12, 2019.