Keeping up with Changes on Cuba’s Creative Scene through the 2005 Convention

Cuba’s world of music and audiovisual production is beginning to open up with concert performances  and documentary and feature film production growing, reinforcing the  need for creative professionals to find new ways in promoting and strengthening their work.

Building on events such as Haban-Arte, the Havana Biennale, which promotes innovative and experimental work from  local artists, Cuba recognizes the importance of its creative industries and has ensured that the public has better access to cultural goods and services such as film, music art, theatre and cinema.

In 2015, the biennale showcased dance, music, film and literature with events hitting the streets of Havana - in squares, parks and urban spaces, as well as in the usual venues, including the Wifredo Lam Centre of Contemporary Art. The capital’s design Biennale taking place in April will also give new talent in this field the chance to show their creations to different audiences. 

As a Party to the 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, which calls upon countries to introduce policies that support creativity, in particular cultural and creative industries, Cuba is now looking to expand on cultural policies to keep up with economic and social changes taking place in the country. It is against this background that the UNESCO Havana Office and Cuban authorities organized on 9-12 February 2016, a workshop to help assess achievements and challenges encountered, and prepare its quadrennial periodic report on the implementation of the Convention.

This latest workshop, organized with the support of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA)  within the framework of the project ‘Enhancing Fundamental Freedoms through the Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions,’ was led by UNESCO  international experts Octavio Kulesz  and Alfonso Castellanos Ribot,  and follows on from an initial multi-sectoral consultation with government agencies and civil society organizations held in Havana on 1-4 December 2015.

At the core of supporting these changes is the establishment of a national team, comprised of representatives from the Ministries of Culture, the national Institute of Statistics and civil society representing, artists, musicians, filmmakers and producers. The national team, gathered for the workshop, was able to discuss new policies and measures to support cultural access, creativity, cultural industries, as well as data collection.

“Our involvement in the project allows us to enhance the strategic collaboration between the civil society and the State,” Lisver Santiesteban,  Executive Secretary of Fundación del Nuevo Cine Latinoamericano, an NGO supporting cinema and audiovisual industries  in Latin America.

The team identified policies to be included in the periodic report including the special tax treatment for artists, the financing of artistic projects, the marketing of cultural products on-line and the policy of access to artistic education through decentralization.

The drafting group also had the opportunity to discuss challenges such as dealing with the issue of low salaries for creative professionals, updating old infrastructure and better regulations for the private sector to be more involved.

Taking part in the workshop, Naylet Montes, from ARTEX – an organization falling under Cuba’s Ministry of Culture - highlighted the wide range of activities being undertaken by ARTEX to support the trading of Cuban cultural goods and services abroad. She stressed the importance of promoting the sale of Cuban music and books on the international scene, no matter how difficult this task may be.

‘’The workshops on the 2005 Convention are having a very positive impact inside the Culture Ministry. The Vice-ministry called representatives from all the sectors inside the ministry for a 1-day conference on the topic in April. This provides a meaningful platform  with culture experts to go in-depth on the Convention ,  which  for sure will be very useful for them  in  discussions on modeling cultural policies and how to make them work better with the changes taking place in the creative industries in Cuba,’’ Leire Fernández, International Consultant, UNESCO Havana said.

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