Spotlight shines on UCT intellectual

27 Jun 2016 - 10:30

Associate Professor Barbaro Martinez-Ruiz has been named one of the ‘top nine Afro-Cuban intellectuals and artists you should know’, by He is a world renowned Art Historian and heads the History of Art and Discourse of Art division at the Michaelis School of Fine Art. profiles and promotes African creativity in art, music and fashion, identifying thought-leaders from around the world. The digital magazine made the announcement following President Barrack Obama’s historic visit to Cuba in March of this year, the first from an American President in 88 years. Whilst in Cuba, President Obama highlighted the intellectual and cultural contribution made by Cubans of African descent, in society and re-affirmed the US government’s commitment to supporting this community. The 2016 list comprises established individuals who are using their work to make a difference in society. French Afro-Cuban duo Ibeyi made the list (they feature in Beyonce’s Lemonade video) as did jazz musician Daymé Arocena; Grammy Award nominated saxophonist Yosvany Terry; writer and poet Roberto Zurbano Torres and Victor Fowler Calzada a published poet and researcher who among other accomplishments, won Cuba’s Nicolas Guillen Prize in 2007. Other high-profile names include vocalist Pedrito Martinez; documentary filmmaker and screenwriter Gloria Rolando as well as Alexandre Arrechea, whose work as a Visual Artist has featured in group exhibitions at art biennales all over the world. Author of the article, Pablo d. Herrera Veitia, says that as Cuba enters a new era after socialism, it is particularly important for Afro-Cubans to locate their place in and connection to the African continent. He says that artists and intellectuals have a vital role to play in shaping these important conversations and that the nine individuals profiled, together reflect the diversity and range of that work already in progress.

Martinez-Ruiz’s research interests include African and Caribbean artistic, visual, and religious practices. He joined the University Of Cape Town in 2014 after holding senior positions at Havana’s High Institute of Art (1993-1997), the Rhode Island School of Design (2002-2004) and in Stanford University’s Department of Art and Art History (2004-2013). At Stanford, he established an Orbis Africa, an institute dedicated to three core areas: the study of graphic writing and writing systems in Africa; the recording of African verbal and oral history and research into art and religion. He is the author of a number of books including Kongo Graphic Writing and Other Narratives of the Sign, Temple University Press, 2013 (English) and El Colegio de México, 2012 (Spanish); Faisal Abdu’Allah: On the Art of Dislocation, Centro Atlántico de Art Moderno Press, 2012 and Art and Emancipation in Jamaica: Isaac Mendes Belisario and his Worlds, Yale University Press, 2007, which received the Alfred H. Barr Prize by the College Art Association.

Professor Martinez-Ruiz serves as editor for the Cuban Studies Magazine and for Harvard University’s Transition magazine and is a Pacific Standard Time LA/LA research fellow from 2014-2017 at The Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles California.