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By Millie Creighton, University of British Columbia

In addition to providing a great conference involvement and occasion for academic networking, for many of us the CASCA-Cuba conference which took place in Santiago de Cuba in May of 2018 offered the chance to gain further insights into Cuba or enhance comparisons with on-going research in other parts of the world. For those of us entering or leaving Cuba via Havana there was at least a brief chance to see the urban architecture there, the plethora of still operating 1950s cars associated with Havana, take a ride in a ‘co-co cab’ (those ‘cute’ little cabs in bright yellow to orangish gold colours that resemble coconuts), or go to the La Floridita bar, where the daiquiri is thought to have been invented, and possibly partake of a daiquiri while sitting beside the bronze statue of Ernest Hemingway—as many tourists do–at the bar he is said to have frequented often (an engagement relative to literary tourism research).

For myself, leaving Cuba via the Havana airport allowed me the chance to visit a location on the outskirts of Havana known as Fusterlandia, named after Cuban artist Josef Fuster. Fusterlandia involves several streets of artwork; entire buildings, streetwalks, building fronts, and interiors, mostly designed and decorated in mosaic style in the seaside town of Jaimanitas just west of Havana. Fuster dedicated the area as a tribute to Antoni Gaudi and one senses a similar feel viewing the art involved or going through the mammoth art installations. The engagement was particularly beneficial for me as I have been studying ‘art places in Japan’ in recent years as part of my own work, and how such large scale art installations are being utilized in outlying places in Japan (many also in towns on waterways connecting Japan’s islands), and how whole neighbourhoods or large scale areas are being re-positioned and re-presented as art engagements, often to enhance tourism and new forms of economic revenue to areas that were formerly well populated but have been experiencing severe depopulation in recent decades. In both cases engaging with the art, and at times the natural environment (such as the areas of Fusterlandia along the waterfront, just as along Japanese shorelines) have been fulfilling, and also attune people to how art can be combined with incentives towards pursuit of better ecological balance, and re-enhancement of community, place, and identity.

Fusterlandia as an art place in Cuba has large scale complexes done in mosaics and tile that people can walk through and engage with the art. This image shows the entry and exit to such a complex along with views of the art work on buildings in the neighbourhood outside the complex.

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(Photo by Millie Creighton)

As an outdoor art place in Cuba, Fusterlandia has blocks of artwork along streets and sidewalks and covering building, as well as murals along the seashore of the seaside town Jaimanitas. This image shows how artwork adorns one of the area buildings, and an art mosaic border for the neighbourhood houses or businesses.

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(Photo by Millie Creighton)

Millie Creighton also published a CASCA-Cuba conference summary in the Japan Studies Association of Canada newsletter, available here:

http://buna.yorku.ca/jsac/newsletter/jsac_newsletter_spring_2018.pdf

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