Scenography Commission








Carnival Symposium 2004

July 14, 2004

Hosted by the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba

UNEAC - Unión de Escritores y Artistas de Cuba

Auspicia Comité Provincial de la UNEAC de Santiago de Cuba

“One revolution is still necessary: the one that will not end with the rule of its leader. It will be the revolution against revolutions, the uprising of all peaceable individuals, who will become soldiers for once so that neither they nor anyone else will ever have to be a soldier again.

Jose Marti, the most revered patriot of Cuba

Confecciones Turarte, Havana Costume Atelier

(Click for additional Turate Confeccione images)

On the 14th of July 2004 , twenty Americans braved their government's sanctions against traveling to Cuba, dealt with the confusion resulting from further restrictions imposed by the U.S. only two weeks earlier, and joined eighteen other travelers in Cuba. The meeting in Santiago de Cuba beckoned costume designers from as far away as Korea and Japan for the Cuba Carnival Design Symposium sponsored by the OISTAT Costume Working Group. They were greeted in Havana by Jose Antonio Prades Hung from UNEAC, Cuba's non-government union of writers and artists. Prades is also the president of ACITAE (Cuban Institute of Technicians, Architects and Engineers), a parallel organization to USITT and a member of OISTAT (Organisation Internationale des Scenografes, Techniciens et Architectes de Theatre). He organized the Cuban activities for the symposium and he lit up as he saw the group arrive. Each was given a fragrant narcissus flower, symbolizing the beauty and poetry of Cuba.

Everyone was introduced to Guillermo Lopez Sanchez, the representative from Havantur, and Jesus Grajales Romero who was to be the guide for the next twenty days. The Cuban government assigned them to the group, as is common with all large groups who visit Cuba for government sanctioned events. After some initial suspicion, everyone adjusted to the governmental supervision and also set aside their chagrin at being driven around the impoverished Cuban countryside in an overly grand, air-conditioned Volvo tour bus. The adjustment came easily because the only truly unbearable aspect of being in Cuba in July was the weather. With temperatures approaching 100 degrees (Fahrenheit) coupled with 95% humidity, the climate was very debilitating. People became light-headed and had cloudy vision if they didn't have enough water. Once the hosts understood this fact, bottled water was more readily available and the schedule was adjusted to allow for a midday siesta and cool-down period. This three-hour break made the rigorous schedule possible. Initially, every moment of the twenty days of the symposium was scheduled from 10 a.m. until 2 a.m. Soon the group discovered that the 2 a.m. estimate was modest. Most of the nine nights of the carnival in Santiago de Cuba ended at 3 or 3:30 a.m.

The dancers and costumes considered the best were often at the end of the parade creating the excitement of anticipation among the crowds. Carnival was the reason that this group had gathered in Cuba. The Costume Working Group found a growing interest in the costume designs for carnival celebrations around the world. In this age of the amalgamation of clothing styles, the only residue of ethnic diversity in dress is found in folk festivals and carnival celebrations. The Costume Working Group, although committed to world understanding through cultural exchange, is devoted to ethnic diversity in clothing and historical dress. Carnival celebrations, in particular, tend to blend multi-cultural looks. In the Caribbean countries, there are diverse cultural influences, most particularly European (Spanish and French with some English), African (Nigeria and the Congo), and American (USA, Mexico and Brazil). All of these countries have lavish yet very different carnival traditions, and most of them are celebrated in the winter months, most particularly late February/early March, just prior to Lent. Cuba is the exception since the carnival in Santiago has stayed centered around the Celebration of Saint Iago (James) on July 25th. A carnival in July is much more convenient for most of the world since the theatre season and academic year are both at a lull.

(Click image for more Pictures from the Carnaval Symposium)

Despite the weather, it was decided to take advantage of an exceptional opportunity and hold the symposium where carnival was in the air while presentations were going on. There is a pervasive sense of well-being associated with the indulgences of carnival yet also an appreciation for the work of everyone who does something at home to add to the festivities. It is precisely this homemade quality that adds to the theatrical effect of the whole.