Entitled Beyond the Frame, the exhibition features works by Cuban artists, including Guerrero and Hernández, as well as from other mostly UK-based artists who donated artwork.
Guerrero paints and draws using a wide variety of techniques, which he learned in prison. Hernández creates mostly political cartoons, an art he practiced before his incarceration.
The exhibition was organized by the Cuba Solidarity Campaign to publicize the international fight for their freedom. “Beyond the Frame aims to capture both the character of the art and the fact that the five were framed up,” Dodie Weppler, the main organizer of the effort, told the Militant.
Hundreds crammed into Gallery 27 in London’s West End during the opening week, April 23-28. It then traveled to the Lighthouse in Glasgow May 7-13.
Antonio Guerrero’s mother, Mirta Rodríguez, and sister, Maruchi Guerrero, spoke at the opening and at special viewings. Among the participants were Esther Armenteros, Cuban ambassador to the United Kingdom, and prominent Cuban artists Lesbia Vent Dumois and “Choco” (Eduardo Roca Salazar), whose work was also on display as part of the exhibit. Work donated by 26 Cuban and 20 non-Cuban artists has been available for sale, with the proceeds going to the campaign for the release of the five.
Both the daily Guardian and the Glasgow Sunday Herald featured major articles on Beyond the Frame and the Cuban Five, as they are commonly known. “Two of the artists featured in a new exhibition will definitely not be present on the opening night,” wrote Guardian journalist Duncan Campbell. “Instead of mingling with fellow artists in London’s West End, they will each be spending the time in a high-security cell in a penitentiary in the US.”
The five were arrested by the FBI in 1998. At the time they were living and working in southern Florida gathering information for the Cuban government on activities of U.S. government-backed Cuban-American counterrevolutionary groups with a long history of murderous attacks against Cuba and supporters of the Cuban Revolution. The revolutionaries were convicted in 2001 on various trumped-up “conspiracy” charges in a Miami trial marked by egregious violations of constitutional rights.
The Scottish Parliament on May 9 debated the issue of the Cuban Five. Initiated by Labour Member of Scottish Parliament Elaine Smith, the legislative session also discussed opposition to the U.S. embargo, reported Cuba Solidarity Campaign News. Smith told parliament that the Cuban Five had suffered a “miscarriage of justice” and were being used by Washington as “pawns in a political game.” The debate received nationwide media attention with BBC broadcasting the entire event on its website.
Smaller displays of work by Guerrero and Hernández and prints from other Cuban artists and associated public meetings were organized in York and in Manchester.
In Manchester, laminated printed photographs of each of the five placed behind wooden “prison bars” looked out onto a city center street for the May 4 display, which drew a steady stream of visitors. A meeting to hear Antonio Guerrero’s son, Tony, and Rosa Aurora Freijanes, the wife of Fernando González, drew more than 70 people.
“Antonio and Gerardo have a talent to share and they are using it to communicate with the people of the world and to resist,” Tony Guerrero told participants. “If we have to go all over the world to free them, that is what we will do.”
“Angola is what made Fernando more revolutionary and more radical. It was his Moncada and his Playa Girón,”* said Freijanes. “He learned what colonialism and imperialism really were. A reality we never want for Cuba.”
Three of the five revolutionaries—Fernando González, René González and Gerardo Hernández—were among some 375,000 Cuban volunteers who served in Angola from 1975 to 1991. The volunteer combatants were decisive in helping Angolan forces repel repeated invasions by the then white supremacist regime of South Africa.
“I’d like to put on this exhibition at my university,” creative writing student Kerry Slater told the meeting. “When I tell friends about the five, they want to know more.”
Meetings associated with Beyond the Frame were also hosted at London and Essex universities.
On April 17, 1961, 1,500 U.S.-based Cuban mercenaries—organized, financed and deployed by Washington—invaded Cuba at Bay of Pigs on southern coast. In less than 72 hours, they were defeated by Cuba’s revolutionary militias, armed forces and police. On April 19 remaining invaders were captured at Playa Girón (Girón Beach), the name used in Cuba for invasion and battle.
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