Pierre-Elie DE PIBRAC

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Desmemoria is a photographic, anthropological and social testimony to the community of Cuban azucareros – workers of the sugar industry and the revolutionaries of the first hour. Between 2016 and 2017, Pierre-Élie de Pibrac crisscrossed the island and lived with various families of this community. Through this experience, the photographer questions the end of utopias for people who believed and worked to achieve Castro’s dream.

For decades, the sugar industry was supposed to be the praise of the Cuban economy, celebrated by Castro and his troops: ”Sugar is our story, without it, it is impossible to understand the essence and the soul of Cuba,” says Cuban historian Eusebio Leal Spengler. More than half a century later, this sugar economy wasn’t able to keep its promises of emancipation corresponding to Castro’s ideology. Immersed into rural areas, Pierre-Élie de Pibrac went to meet the inhabitants of the bateyes (villages) of sugar plants. Still active or abandoned, these sugar communities and its workers are witnessing to lives sacrificed in the light of a utopian doxa. The bateyes are the theaters of the disenchantment of Cuban society. There is a heavy atmosphere pointing out loneliness, poverty, isolation and precariousness. Even if the sugar cane built Cuba and used to represent the national pride, today, it became the symbol of its sinking, dragging with it a new generation without reference.

In this transitional period of Cuban history, the images of Pierre-Élie de Pibrac reveal a world in disintegration. They tell how the Cuban people now face their daily life and how they look on their recent history. Both documentary and artistic approach of the photographer allows another reading of post-Castroism that is now installing. Through the prism of various image registers – photographs taken during this long stay and images extracted from vernacular iconography, Pierre-Élie de Pibrac reveals a dienchanted society which is at the same time deeply attached to the singularity of its history.

This photographic work was awarded with the Levallois prize in 2018.

Publication year : 2019
Number of pages : 204
Language : French
ISBN 13 : 978-2365112437