Location: Palazzo Ducale, Cortile Carrara, 1
CHAMPÚ. THE YOUTH OF LA VIBORA -VINCENT DELBROUCK
curated by Nanda van den Berg
in cooperation with Huis Marseille, Amsterdam
Delbrouck first visited Cuba, which he calls his “adoptive country”, in 1997 and has returned regularly ever since. In the spring of 2018 Delbrouck met a group of youngsters in the El Chivo park in La Vibora, a quiet neighbourhood in Havana. The girls asked him whether he wanted to take photos: “Suddenly they were there: Leslie, Oscar, Gabriela, Solanch, Addiel, Leonardo, Oris, Sharawi, Marcel. I photographed them with open enthusiasm, a bit jealous but at ease. In them I found what I had been trying to formulate for years: an infectious joy.” He felt connected to them; the differences in their age and culture fell away, and he became one of the group.
The teenagers that Delbrouck met are part of a generation that was born in the so-called ‘special period’, the years that followed the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union – then Cuba’s economically – and which resulted in serious shortages of foodstuffs and other products.
Cuba had suffered such shortages before: in 1959 the Cuban Revolution led by Fidel Castro had replaced a dictatorship with a communist regime, and the US quickly imposed a trade embargo. The internet has recently become more accessible for many Cubans through the legalisation of domestic networks and the importation of routers, but it is still the government which decides which websites can be seen. Freedom of expression is limited, as are journalistic and artistic freedoms, and attitudes towards the LHBT community are almost as intolerant as they were in the 1950s. Still, these issues do not seem to trouble Delbrouck’s teenagers very much. How do they see the future? “No real plans for the future here,” says Delbrouck. “The country is unable to offer careers. You’re better off accepting it, lying on the floor and kissing your girlfriend or your boyfriend – starting to create your own path of little freedoms in this harsh world of decay.”
Vincent Delbrouck’s photographs are a testament to the indestructible vigour and resilience of the young, and hopeful evidence of the potential for people to rise above circumstances and constraints and to make a better future.