Three-day conference explored and celebrated Afro-Cuban culture
Chels Fabian
Juanamaria Cordones-Cook

Juanamaria Cordones-Cook

Bridging research and creative works, international scholars and contemporary Cuban artists recently gathered at Mizzou for Afro-Cuban Legacies. The three-day conference explored and celebrated Afro-Cuban culture through visual arts, literature, literature, music, and religion. 

“By putting creative work in conversation with academic research, this conference highlights the inherently interdisciplinary breadth of the humanities,” said Cooper Drury, dean of the College of Arts and Science, “and is an outstanding example of the high-impact collaborations undertaken daily among A&S faculty.”

Keynoting the conference were William Luis from Vanderbilt University, Elzbieta Sklodowska from Washington University and Ivor Miller from Harvard University. Dozens more scholars presented and discussed topics such as identity, history, spirituality, decolonization, femininity, and cultural production.

“Projects of this nature are the product of teamwork,” said the conference’s organizer, Juanamaria Cordones-Cook, University of Missouri Curators’ Distinguished Professor of Spanish and Catherine Paine Middlebush Professor of Romance Languages, “We have been preparing this for eight years.” Cordones-Cook envisioned Afro-Cuban Legacies and recruited an international roster of presenters and guest artists, as well as local collaborators from Mizzou, Lincoln University and Stephens College. 

Alongside the scholarly discussions were performances from artists such as percussionist and poet Román Diaz, actress Monse Duany, and poet laureate Nancy Morejón, as well as exhibits from visual artists Juan Roberto Diago and Rene Peña. 

Diago’s and Pena’s works were displayed in the Museum of Art and Archaeology. Diago uses reclaimed materials in larger-than-life sculptures and installations to represent history’s assembly, reassembly and ever-present process of becoming. Meanwhile, Peña’s photographs of familiar objects and household items evoke socioeconomic status, diet, and security — calling attention to stereotypes and assumptions. 

“It is wonderful for us to have this event not in New York City, not in San Francisco — but Columbia, Missouri,” said University of Missouri President Mun Y. Choi, “As a university, we have a deep commitment to the arts and a deep commitment for cultural exchanges that will create a world that is more interesting, that is more humane and more just.”

woman viewing photo on museum wall
two people looking down at sculpture on museum floor
two women looking at photo on museum wall
woman looking up at tall sculpture in museum
two tall sculptures in library
two tall sculptures in library
close-up detail of sculpture
single scupture in library