On 3rd November, collective member Jenny Engledow and I gave a talk to the Cuban Solidarity Campaign (CSC) in the Pelham Room at the Brighthelm Centre. This was the first time I’d seen the banner completed, following Jenny’s final hand-finishing. Jenny has made tapes, cut to size from the piece of cloth we’ve been using as a protective layer each time we wrap, fold and put away the banner. She’s hand-stitched these onto the reverse of the entire outside edge of the bannerm to strengthen it. Jenny has added a machine sewn tube, or socket, made from this same fabric, to the length of the top edge of the banner, in order to enable a length of wood to be inserted whenever the banner is hung in a gallery or public space. So now it’s ready to be hung at the Pallant House exhibition. Jenny’s accomplished stitching has ensured that the blanket stitches on the edges of the banner, each one of which has been made by a member of the public at one of our public sewings, remain intact and visible.
The CSC talk was an opportunity for us to consider how to display the banner in a smaller public space with no facilities for hanging. Members of the audience volunteered to support Jenny and me when the time came for us to display the banner for our talk.
The evening began with a talk by two members of the International Brigades Memorial Trust (IBMT). Con Fraser spoke about her work in England with the International Brigades. Con and her husband Harry, who had fought in Spain, worked for many years honouring the memories of those who fought and died fighting Fascism. It was extremely moving to hear the strong, clear voice of Con recounting her memories.
Then followed a talk from Pauline Fraser on the participation of Cubans in the Spanish Civil War. A volunteer with the Marx Memorial Library, Pauline has assisted in sourcing photographs and documents for the forthcoming Conscience and Conflict Exhibition at Pallant House, for which the IBMT is also one of the sponsors.
Pauline told us about the Cuban Brigadier, Evelio Aneiros. She and Con had met Evelio shortly before his death in 2001, and in a very moving gesture, Evelio gave them a signed copy of his book, ‘Cuba en Espagne’ which was published in 1990 by Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, Havana. In this, the courage and determination of the Cubans who fought in Spain between 1936 and 1939 is documented. The story of the Cuban Brigades is one that is little known and it was moving to see the copy of the Brigadier’s book: the texture of the paper and the design on the cover embodying a time and place of which we in the west are told little in the media. Con will be writing an article on the Brigades for the next CSC newsletter.
There was a discussion of the proud heritage of Cuban aid for those who are oppressed and dispossessed by war, famine, disaster or outbreaks of disease. This continues today: Cuba has sent 248 doctors and healthcare professionals to Sierra Leone to treat Ebola patients in Liberia and Guinea. According to Jose Luis Di Fabio, the World Health Organisation representative on Cuba: ‘Cuba has provided the numbers and the people. There are more human resources from Cuba than from many, many NGOs [non-governmental organisations] put together.”
Jenny and I enjoyed doing the talk together – we agreed afterwards how pleasant it is to be able to call upon one another’s knowledge and interests as the talk unfolds, so that we can be more engaging. Members of the CSC group aupported us in holding the banner so that all could see, and they were a rewarding audience for us, with their intent awareness of the spread of militarism and fascism throughout the world today. For them, Picasso’s painting is a living embodiment of resistance to this, and, as we talked of the collaborative work we had devoted to making the banner, there were many discussions about art and politics.