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Cuba and its propaganda posters

Image of a woman holding a gun.

Day of Solidarity with the People of Guinea-Bissau & Cape Verde, 1968 By Berta Abelénda Fernández

The Caribbean island of Cuba has produced more propaganda in support of oppressed peoples than any other nation on earth. But why?

Mike Tyler, the collector who owns the OSPAAAL posters in our Art of Solidarity exhibition, explains his own view on the connection between the country and the OSPAAAL artworks:

“The origins of Cuba’s propaganda posters can be largely traced to the demise of Colonialism following the end of World War Two. Whilst victorious, the war effort had a devastating impact on Europe’s great Imperial powers. As well as the human cost, their cities, economies and ‘prestige’ lay in ruins.

“As the dust settled both United States and Soviet Union felt they had earned the right to determine the future of post war Europe. With very different ideologies their wartime cooperation quickly unravelled and the world became divided into the Capitalist West – or as it came to be known, the “First World”, and the Communist East or “Second World”.

Poster image featuring and African carved statue

Africa, 1969 By Jesús Forjáns Boade

“But there was also a “Third World” – European colonies scattered throughout Africa, Asia and Latin America. Sensing the balance of power had shifted, many saw this as a chance for independence from their colonial “masters”. For some the process was relatively peaceful – however, for most, it would lead to violence and civil war.

“This instability provided the United States and Soviet Union with an opportunity. Due to the threat of nuclear weapons they couldn’t risk going to war with each other – so the Third World became a covert battleground with each super-power supplying weapons and financing various liberation movements to gain the biggest piece of the pie. These proxy wars – most famously Korea, Vietnam, the Congo and Falklands – would define the Cold War era.

“For the countries involved there is a Kenyan proverb, which seems appropriate: “When the elephants fight – it is the grass that suffers”.”

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