House of Africa: 21 years promoting cultural roots
By Teresa de Jesús Torres Espinosa
At one of the colonial houses in Obrapía street, Old Havana, number 157, where used to be a tobacco warehouse and a commercial center by the end of the 19th century, arose the House of Africa 21 years ago, a historical center belonging to Havana's Historian Office.
Since its creation, the House of Africa has always been faithful to the Black Continent, reflecting in a simple, but deep way, its geography, religions, wisdom, history and mancipation battles.
This center, dedicated from its very beginning to foster the study and knowledge of the African culture -a basic component of the Cuban culture- was created on January 6th, 1986, when the exchange between the peoples of Africa and Cuba was very intense. By this time, many young students traveled to the Caribbean Island to have training courses in different fields, while thousands of Cubans did their best at the humanity Mother land.
The House of Africa has a great attraction and exerts a big power upon the community: its specialists explain to the children, the young and the adults the African influence in the culture of the Antillean archipelago, which has left a deep mark that prevail at present.
The institution has an intense sociocultural program that promotes, through exhibitions, workshops, theoretical events and cultural activities dedicated to literature and music, the most genuine arts values of the Mother Continent. Traditions, customs and celebrations show the ancestral wealth of Africa for the enjoyment and knowledge of the new generations.
Among the popular traditions that draw people's attention at the Historical Site stands out the January 6th, a date that coincides with the foundation of the House-Museum. On that day the Afro-Cuban town council goes out to the old streets, and to the rhythm of the drums, dancing groups followed by dozens of residents and visitors, patrol the old squares of the former village of San Cristobal de La Habana. During colonial times, that was the only day of the year when the slaves didn't work. A black multitude took the heart of the city in an impressive way, as if Africa were inside her, a fact reflected by the Literature and the engraving of that epoch.
For more than two decades the House of Africa has been promoting the influence left by that Continent regarding music, dancing, painting and other Cuban cultural expressions.
Having a marked scientific and academic nature, it organizes multiple celebration days and national and international events that have had the presence of researches from different countries; an example of these are the different workshops of Social Anthropology and Afro-American Culture held in our county. By the way, this year it will arrive to its eleventh edition, on January 5th and 8th, paying tribute to the memory of the outstanding Cuban figure Don Fernando Ortiz, Father of Cultural Anthropology in Cuba.
During the celebration day, the Institution also invites the public to its arts galleries that exhibit a rich African arts collection, many of them having an utilitarian character with a high aesthetic value. Among these we find: initiation and fecundity masks, big sculptures carved in wood, wardrobes, musical instruments, and other valuable objects. The House also has a specialized library that offers its services to academicians, researches and university students interested in acquiring knowledge of the African culture.