Dec 01, 2014-Jan 04, 2015


Drapetomania celebrates the art of Cuba’s Grupo Antillano and the contemporary artists influenced by them

A forgotten visual arts and cultural movement that thrived briefly in the 1970s and ’80s, Grupo Antillano was a collective of 17 artists who articulated a vision of Cuban culture that emphasized the importance of Africa and Afro-Caribbean influences in the formation of the Cuban nation.

These extraordinary artists brought the Afro-Cuban experience to the forefront of their culture; however, much of their work disappeared toward the end of the 20th century. Censorship prevailed, especially because of the Cuban state’s approach toward African culture that was in direct contrast to the celebration of it by Grupo Antillano. Cuba’s cultural leadership not only ignored the influences and heritage of Africa, but they considered them to be primitive and “counter-revolutionary” then proceeded to remove it from the country’s history, art and culture.


The paintings, sculputures and mixed media of Drapetomaníaall seek to revise this national omission, and the art of Grupo Antillano brings with it a long tradition of Caribbean resistance and cultural assertion. The exhibition also features the work of contemporary Cuban artists influenced and inspired by this movement.

The exhibit’s name comes from a term coined in the 19th century by an infamous Louisiana doctor who identified drapetomania” as a disease that the enslaved often suffered from with its main symptom being an irresistible urge to escape or run away.

Drapetomanía: Grupo Antillano and the Art of Afro-Cuba is curated by Alejandro de la Fuente and sponsored by the Afro-Latin American Research Institute at the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research, Harvard University, with support from the Ford Foundation and the Christopher Reynolds Foundation. The exhibit is complemented by the book Grupo Antillano: The Art of Afro-Cuba, edited by Alejandro de la Fuente, with essays by art critic and historians Guillermina Ramos Cruz, José Veigas and Judith Bettelheim.

Drapetomanía, a pseudo-scientific word invented by a 19th century doctor to describe a “disease” suffered by the enslaved, whose main symptom was an irresistible urge to escape or run away.