Yanelys Núñez Leyva

* 1989

  • “As I am talking about the Omni Free Zone movement, they were men and black, they were marginal black men, but they were men. And in the background, there are women, their wifes, who are all of them art professionals; they are producers, actresses, narrators… but those who come to the public arena are other names, the names of men. And within these independent spaces such as the Museum [of Dissent] or other independent spaces, we experience sexism as it can be lived in state institutions or as it can be lived in popular neighbourhoods. But sexism in its deepest sense. Because one believes, or at least I believed, that these spaces of art world be more open, more informed, that supposedly they would be open minded, but not, in the end women continue to be relegated in the art world. In the world of visual arts, there are only a few women artists, most of them are recognized men, and of course it is more difficult if you add the other characteristics , -what I said about school, that all those who were there were white girls , upper middle class, daughters of civil servants-. You can imagine myself, daughter of working-class parents, black, humble class, well… you feel the difference in how the art world looks at you and you have to impose yourself.”

  • “The San Isidro Movement arises from the campaign against Decree 349. We are the same founding group of the 00 Bienal, -of organizers and other artists who participated in the 00 Bienal-, who joined the campaign against the Decree, and is called ‘San Isidro’ because on August 11 we had planned a concert with rappers, etc., which was called 'Without permission from 349', and Gorki Águila was going to be there, there were going to be other rappers, spoken word, everything. Luis and I were arrested at noon, the event was at five, and at five in the afternoon, all San Isidro neighbourhood was full of policemen and you couldn't enter there. They detained us at 12 o'clock during the day, but at five, when the event began, Amaury and the other who were there, who were also organizers, they tried to arrest them in the same way, with the patrols and so. And the neighbourhood of San Isidro, the people there, came out to defend them. They started kicking the patrols, they started shouting ‘hey, they're artists, they're not doing anything wrong, why are you taking them away, etc.’ And the neighbourhood of San Isidro has a tradition: first, it is super marginal, and then it has built the myth of Yarini, who was a super emblematic pimp in the Republic, who was very handsome but was also good with women, prostitutes, and poor people... and then, it is a neighbourhood that has that myth, but it is also a very supportive neighbourhood because there is a lot of precariousness, and there is also a lot of prostitution, a lot of violence; and regarding the artists, in the end, they look at them from another level, they say 'these people are not doing anything, these people are not selling drugs, they are not involved in any violent conflict with any neighbour, these people all they want to do is a concert'. So, the neighbourhood was sensitized and came out to defend.”

  • “In 2016 we created the Museum of Dissent in Cuba. During all this time we began to approach the dissidents, we began to meet opponents [to the regime], we began to meet all the legends of the opposition in the art world, but also within activism: Ladies in White, UNPACU, etc., but discreetly. We did not go to their spaces. We met in independent spaces, such as Lía's, where all kinds of people gathered: visual artists, activists… It was, let's say, a natural evolution, and we arrived to the idea of the Museum of Dissidence when we realized that, at some point, working with those issues and interacting with those people, they could consider us to be dissidents, and that that would be a social stigma. And, when we got to the root of the matter, we realize that, if we look at the dictionary, the word dissident means "to have an opinion contrary to the other." And from there we launched a platform, an online archive making a journey through the entire history of Cuban art, where we include there all the opponents, not only contemporaries but all those who are recognized within history official, including Martí and Fidel. And we say that Fidel was a dissident in his youth, and that it was good to be one, and that as much as Fidel was, contemporaries should be recognized and given their space for dissent.”

  • “It is a bit of the imbalance what you see there. When I got to the University, first: all of the girls who were there -most of Art History students are women- came from the Vocational School, so they already came with a training superior to mine, and secondly, the majority were White, upper-middle class; daughters of soldiers, daughters of leaders, who lived in Playa, Miramar... So, there were indeed inequalities in every way. I didn't even have a computer, and all the study plans were digital, because there are no up-to-date books, anyway ... And it's difficult to get used to the rhythm of school in those conditions, when you see that you have to make an effort three times bigger to be able to get things out. And I had close friends who never finished the University. When you don't have a computer, and you have to go to a friend’s house to study, and you see how the teachers also want to get you out of the way so that you don't disturb, and they don't give you possibilities, is very difficult to achieve your studies. Friends of mine never finished their studies.”

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    Madrid, 01.10.2020

    duration: 01:25:36
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“The artist Amaury Pacheco always said our victory is that they do not manage to turn us into sad people; I try not to lose my joy.”

Núñez Leyva Yanelys
Núñez Leyva Yanelys
photo: Post Bellum

Yanelys Núñez Leyva was born in Havana into a working-class family. She followed all the educational channels of the system: school, a pre-university school in the countryside, and university, where she studied Art History. When she graduated, she began working for the official magazine, Revolución y Cultura. Although she had already had contact with the independent scene of the Cuban blogosphere, it was her encounter with the independent artist Luis Manuel Otero that she began to participate in independent artistic projects actively. With Luis Manuel, she founded the Museum of Dissidents in Cuba (which resulted in her release from the Revolución y Cultura magazine) and the first independent biennial in Havana, the 00 Bienal. She also actively participated in the campaign against Decree 349, which restricted artistic freedom in Cuba. In December 2018, she created the San Isidro Movement to protect freedom of expression in Cuba. In 2019, exhausted after two years of continuous activism and strong repression by State Security, she decided not to return from a trip she made to Europe. She currently resides in Madrid and continues to be an active member of the San Isidro Movement.