By Michael Vasquez
After World War II, the idea was that there was going to be a cultural cold war and that it was going to be fought between the non-communist left and the – there was no right; the right was discredited by fascism – so the war was actually between the lefts… So, talking about hidden hinges and pivots in history, 1966 was an incredibly important year in the Cold War – in the cultural cold war in particular. 1968 is more cinematic and happens in Europe, but 1966 was Nkrumah’s overthrow and the two coups and the outbreak of mass violence in Nigeria, one could add the state of emergency in Uganda. It was the year that The Battle of Algiers was released, a really seminal film. And the Tricontinental Conference in Havana set a new tone and established Cuba as one of the leading intellectual lights across the non-aligned world – marking the moment of the shift from non-alignment to socialist resistance. And a publication called Tricontinental, which was very influential, was door-dropped on college campuses across the Third World. There was really something new that happened in Cuba, of which Tricontential was the finest expression. Inside it had a kind of solidarity-of-the-month club poster produced by designers who had been part of the film unit in Algiers. But the “Solidarity with Palestine” poster remains the most iconic for me. Every one of the solidarity posters involved some folkloric image and a gun. These images represent a real break with the sort of socialist realism aesthetic of the previous years. And this sort of aesthetic also ended up being influential in Beirut not long after.
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This article features in a special, Arabic-only edition of the Chronic, published in June 2015 as “Muzmin”. The issue, which examines the division of “North” and “sub-Saharan” Africa and Ali Mazrui’s concept of “Afrabia”, was designed in collaboration with Studio Safar (Beirut) and presented at the 12th edition of Sharjah Biennial.