You may recall that I had said that I wanted to post a final set of photographs of Havana’s grand and crumbling esplanade, the Malecon; you may also recall that I’d said that it might be some time before I got to this, what with the move back to South Africa, finding a house and a car, moving, settling in and so on and so on.
This doesn’t mean I had forgotten: so here, then, is a first set of photographs, taken one mild and mellow evening at the beginning of our stay in Havana, as the sun was going down over the harbour mouth and the twin forts that guard its entrance.
For me, these images have something to say, not only about an evening, a tourist attraction, but something, too, about Cuba. I hope you enjoy them.
– There is a final set of images, still to come, of the Malecon, taken on another day, as we walked from the Vedado end of the 8 kilometre avenue and sea-wall. But that will be for another time.
Dateline Johannesburg: Tuesday, 28 February
With Rob arriving tomorrow from Toronto, and moving house on Friday – not to mention my workload – there will be little time over the next week or ten days for photography and blogging. So I thought I should get in early, and schedule a post for Sunday: (almost) my last post of images from Havana.
I have one more series of images in mind, of Havana’s Malecon, the 8 km esplanade that runs from the harbour mouth in Old Havana along the coast to Vedado. And, when I have time, I will set up an Havana portfolio online, in Behance and Adobe Portfolio.
Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy these images – and think of us, as you do so, unpacking and settling into our new home in Jo’burg.
Almost on her way, is our Rob, to Johannesburg, South Africa. She leaves Toronto on Tuesday, arriving at O.R. Tambo International by way of Schiphol at ten Wednesday night.
Thursday she can rest; Friday we move house!
If you look in the rear-view mirror of this Habana taxi, you can see her – seems a fitting image, in all sorts of crazy adventurous ways, for this next phase of our journey.
Another Sunday, another post. Once again, Havana – a few images, this time, a sampling, of some of the marvellous Art Deco and modernist architecture that flowers, unexpectedly, amongst the colonial ruins of old Havana.
Their homage to the airplane, the machine, jazz and the cinema, a striving for escape velocity. How ironic, then, to see them stranded.
I’ve chosen, on this occasion, to present the photographs in colour – I’ve a feeling they might work as well, or better, in black and white also.
The Bosque de La Habana tells you something about the city. A patch of shady woodland along the banks of the Rio Almedares, it is crossed at one end by a picturesque stone bridge. Drawn by the bridge, and the shade, and the river below, the open Chevies and Buicks in their bright colours gather, with their cargoes of tourists.
But the bridge is crumbling, the grotto is littered, the stream a stinking grey intestine. The drivers pull in, nonetheless, and the assembly of vintage automobiles, and the luxuriant foliage, and the scattered light filtering through the leaves and branches, make it all seem romantic. But you can’t help wondering – at the neglect, at the lack of maintenance, the pollution, the seeming absence of initiative to fix the place up and – at the same time – the easy charm and resilience.
Life goes on, it seems, despite tourists and communism, and the old cars retain their air of romance, even if they are markers of isolation and impoverishment rather than celebrations of heritage.
Your upcoming post this weekend will feature the cars of Havana – cars which are not just cars, but markers and expressions of a society, an economy, a particular history.
This Chevy truck is not a car, obviously – but deserves a place, perhaps, as a kind of precursor or foreword. No matter how glamorous, how retro, the car in Havana – like the truck, the motorcycle with sidecar, the crazy coco-taxi – is a workhorse.
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So I have come to the end of a week in Cape Town – a round of project inception meetings with officials and academics, dinners out with my 85 year old mother or quiet evenings at home watching The Crown on Netflix, calls on FaceTime to my wife in Toronto, and – stealing a few moments here and there – working on my photos from Havana.
And so it is, I guess, that we inhabit multiple places, multiple eras. Echoes of ‘radical economic transformation,’ from this week’s State of the Nation address, provide a ghostly, sardonic music to accompany the photos – if you want radical economic transformation, try Cuba.
Yet these scenes, and the people in them, ask you to relate, not comment: other people, getting on with their lives, on their own special island.
There is more to Havana than just Habana Vieja: and there are a lot more images to process and – geez, if I were more pretentious than I like to think I am – ‘curate.’
But before I move on – to art deco suburban architecture, 50s cars and cinemas, the melancholy drama of the Malecon – there is (for now, anyway) a final set of images of the old town to be posted.
As with the last post, I’ve done these in colour: much as I love black and white, the way it reveals, caresses, form and texture, you just have to show the leprous bloom, the fatal opulence of Habana Vieja, in colour.
You visit Havana, you don’t want to be just a nosy outsider, a tactless tourist, a peeping voyeur – and yet, the place is so different, both in the world that you see before you and in the things you can’t see, but know or imagine are there, that your senses stand on tiptoe to peer into stairwells, catch glimpses of interiors when the doors or the windows lean open. So I took a few photos, of doors and stairwells – not too many, just a few – which I thought I would share with you.
They are, if you like, both images and symbols.