Cuba and photos on Flickr

I've posted on Flickr my photos from Cuba this week. The Icograda Design Conference in Havana was interesting but less truly international than I expected. Westerners and Caucasians felt more present on the panels than in the audience which had lots of Cubans and felt more international. It was cool that they had simultaneous English and Spanish translations.

On the panel on Indigenous Design, the lack of indigenous representation on the panel was appalling, given then significant theoretically critique of the representation of indigenous people by non-indigenous people. That panel left me feeling that the indigenous element in design is more decorative than a significant part of national design practices, which even if the case, it should have been addressed as such.

The highlight presentation was of Ahn Sang Soo of Korea. His presentation on Hangul, the Korean alphabet, was the perfect example of design anthropology by combining the physical, material, cultural, and linguistic manifestation of human identity (both personal and social) with the highest standards of technical and aesthetic form-making. I was on the verge of tears with the poetry of his presentation (especially with a 50 hour trip and only 2 hours of sleep). He received the longest ovation from the audience.

Other highlights were the presentations of Maria Rogal, whose work and as a person I adore; Joi and Carmen of Motorola, Rafeal Vivanco and Sandra Tineo's presentation on cross-cultural design in the Peruvian design curriculum. They have four units of human development in their design curriculum at  la Escuela de Artes de la Universidad Católica Pontificia del Perú.

I got to meet lots of fascinating people. Not many Cubans because we were somewhat isolated by language and the Conference did not encourage much real mixing in some ways. I did get to spend some time talking to a Cuban family and visiting the City when I played hooky from the conference one day. But I don't have a real sense of Cuban life, which is hard to say as an anthropologist. All of this means that I have to return to explore more deeply the real life. I am determined to do so. 

Icograda-Arriving in Cuba

I finally made it to Cuba on the second try. Continuing my pan-African identity, I have been mistaken for Cuban throughout my travels. It seems to manifest itself (even when they find out I'm American) in better service and more engagement. It helps that I speak some Spanish. I have a great vibe from Cuba.

Cuba is so lush green. It reminds me a lot of Addis Ababa when I went to do my field work in 1997.  There are few cars on the highway, but there are new trucks from China. You look out at lush industrial complexes with chickens and cows roaming about in front. The houses seem to be similar in style as those in Addis Ababa. There are various levels of decay, with more decay in the outskirts and less decay in the city. The contrasts between classes in neighborhoods is striking. There are buildings that are rotting out from the inside and then near the conference center, there are mini-mansions.

The sustainability sessions were disappointing coming off of AIGA National, where many of the topics were covered with greater production values and more solution driven. There are too many American presenters, so there is not as much of a global perspective as I hoped. But tomorrow might be better.

More later, I have to attend the evening reception.

Voy a Cuba

Hoy, voy a Cuba para la conferencia de ICOGRADA. Today I am going to Cuba for the ICOGRADA conference. I am really excited because I've never been to Cuba before. I have packed my camera because the only things as an American I can take out are photographs. Tee hee.

At NeoCon in Baltimore, I met this wonderful gentleman Rafael Fuentes, who left Cuba when he was 15 years old and have not been allowed to return in 36 years. There is great sadness is this form of exile.

So I hope that there is wifi access at the conference, as Ric Grefé once indicated. I will try to blog and take lots of photographs while there.

If not, then wish me buen viaje. Ir a Cuba en este momento de la historia será una gran aventura. To go to Cuba in this moment in history will be a great adventure.

Hasta luego. See you later.