First miniature art festival in Cuba
BY LUCIA ARBOLAEZ
Which art form is not developed in Cuba? Deep in the heart of the Caribbean island are artists representing all manifestations imaginable and they proliferate. Painting, sculpture, music, dance, and literature are perhaps the most classic and widespread, but there are also expressions that are not always so widely circulated.
And here we have miniatures, a longstanding variant in the midst of tropical breezes, little-known but no less attractive, the growth and development of which has led to the country being selected as the venue for an international festival in which one can appreciate the level of national participation in this world current.The Fair is set to take place this May in the municipalities of San Juan de los Remedios and Caibarien in the province of Villa Clara.
The event will be attended by Honorary President Harold Gramatges and guest artist Manuel Millar Amador (Maike).It is the first event of its kind to take place on our continent.During the event, the fundamental objectives of which are to bring together Cuban miniaturists to tackle current themes of the development of this artistic expression throughout the world, to organize a contest and an auction of artwork. Also, a museum is to be established in honor of this art which requires precision, skill and, fundamentally, great sensibility to capture each detail however small the work may be.
It is expected that Joan Kelly, president of the World Federation of Miniaturists - headquarters in Australia - will attend the event, as well as representatives from Argentina, Mexico, Venezuela, Brazil, Ecuador, Romania and the United Kingdom, among other countries.A brief historyThe word "miniature" derives from the word "minium", a red rust oxide used in the illustrations that adorned manuscripts, and generally referring to works of art of small dimensions that illustrate to scale real episodes in the daily lives or events created in the imagination of the artist.The antecedents lie in the archaic traditions and myths of the Han dynasty (206 BC -220 AD) in ancient China, where it was customary to bury the deceased along with diminutive ceramic figures, called ming-qi, representing real objects and people that had surrounded the dead person throughout his life.
The first illustrated manuscript was The Book of the Dead produced in Egypt around the year 1310 BC. In Europe, the initiator of the art form was Hans Holbein (16th century), an artist in the court of Henry XIII. In the 18th century, there was outstanding work from Japanese artist and engraver Hokusai (1760-1849) who cultivated all genres, in particular miniature art. It is said that he surprised Emperor Iyenari by presenting him with a leather bag that contained a grain of rice engraved with the Fujiyama landscape and delicately detailed cherry trees in bloom.In Cuba, the practice was initiated in the 19th century by Luis Montserrat Orizondo and later by Luis García Triana in the first half of the 20th century.
There are currently various artists working, including René Cordero whose collection includes a beautiful collection of furniture inspired by European and colonial styles; and Manuel Millán Amador, (Maike) who uses bone, marble, bamboo, wood, shells, conches and all kinds of materials to work on unimaginable pieces, some which are only visible using a magnifying glass.A Chinese descendent, he has no academic training and admits to having received his training from the master sculptures in Chinatown where he was born and raised, and particularly from his father who was also a sculptor, but not a miniaturist. Animals, landscapes, historical pieces, cameos, gods, Buddha, are created in his skillful hands which normally, due to the complexity of his work, take around 10 days to finish a piece, working six hours every day uninterrupted.