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Raúl Corrales (1925–2006)
Female revolutionary with armlet
Cuba, Havana, c. 1970
Gelatin silver print, 40 x 30,2 cm
Signed and stamped „Expoicap” and „71” on the reverse

Raúl Corrales was as able as hardly anyone else to visualise requests, achievements and an image of people shaped by the revolution. A son of Spanish immigrants and sugar cane cutters, he worked as a shoeshine boy and a dish-washer before he could professionally turn to photography from the mid-1940s onwards. After the revolution he became a member of the communist party and was active in the inner circle around Fidel Castro, alongside Alberto Korda and Osvaldo Salas. Corrales accompanied the “Máximo Líder” on a daily basis ever since his coming into power in January 1959. He is still regarded as one of the most important documentalists of the change of system and he has shaped the visual tradition of the Cuban revolution decisively.

His photograph of a female revolutionary with an armlet draws references to several discourses approximately one decade after the takeover of power by Fidel Castro. The picture of an Afro-Cuban woman is not only a successful individual portrait, but also has symbolic relevance. Although unknown, she becomes a protagonist, a symbolisation of a new social order and the “face of the revolution”. Self-confident and thoughtful at the same time, the woman gazes beyond the margin of the picture. She is wearing a sleeveless blouse, an armlet and has a cloth wrapped around her head. Her half-length figure contrasts with the dark background, in whose upper left corner the letters of an illuminated advertisement can be seen.

Corrales’ visual concept supports the myth of the revolution, among whose lasting achievements for example women’s emancipation can be counted. A decisive moment for gender equality was the work of the FMC (Federación de Mujeres Cubanas), a federation consisting of several women’s organisations under governmental control. In contrast to special interest groups like the FMC, there was no such organisation of the African minority after 1959. However, its legal parity with other ethnic groups was, as part of Cuba’s social change, still a major aim of the philosophy of the revolution.

Isabella Riedel © WestLicht

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