RAUL SPEEK BIOGRAPHY

Raul has been central to two documentaries. The first was BBC Arena’s ‘Havana’ in 1990. And the second was ‘A Long Journey Home’ for BBC Wales’s The Slate in 1997, where the director filmed half in Cuba and half in Solva, as Raul returned to Cuba for the first time since leaving. He has also appeared in The Travel Show, Countryfile (his favourite crew and programme) and recently in Weatherman Walking.

Raul has an extensive CV, ranging across one-man shows to shared exhibitions with artists like Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin and Cornelia Parker in the UK, and world-renowned artists in Cuba.

As it’s a long list of events and happenings, we decided not to include it here but if you’d like a copy of Raul’s CV, please email and we’ll be happy to send it to you. Instead, we’ve included a short extract from a biography he’s writing and a selection of images from his private collection.

With Sylvano

With Sylvano, my biological father

Juanica my adopted Mother

Juanica, my adopted mother

GROWING UP IN GUANTANAMO

I was born in Guantanamo, Cuba, in 1958, right at the start of the Cuban Revolution. For some people this is considered an interesting coincidence but even more so I was christened after Fidel Castro’s brother Raul! I wonder how this part of my life has influenced the person I am today, and how it affects how I create my artwork?

Somewhere in my youngest memory it is very early in the morning. My brother is waiting for my sister; she is running from one place to another around the kitchen where breakfast is being prepared. I am the youngest of eleven brothers and sisters. I cannot remember how old I was but I have recollections of being about three: my mother died just before that. I am standing between the knees of my brother, Barbaro, on grass wet from the morning dew. I can’t see very far into the distance – the trees are covered in white fog that is coming down with a mysterious movement. It is the first time I have seen fog in the daytime. I am a little afraid of what it is – it is like it has a life of its own. Barbaro noticed that I am a bit scared of this fog and he started a long explanation of ‘neblina’.

My other brothers are kneeling all around, sharpening their machetes on a wheel made from stone, which is standing on a four-legged bench. While one of them turned the wheel with a mobile handle, the others sharpened their machetes against it, which produced sparks and a very unpleasant noise. I enjoyed seeing the red colour of the soil and the colours of the leaves of the trees and forest, and I liked the smell of the lemons and oranges. I saw lots of strange birds with different colours that I don’t know the names of. I liked to see the water coming down the river, bringing with it pieces of stone and dried leaves because that meant you could see where the river was born up in the mountains. Where I was standing, I could see this birthplace. By the river is a grey stone where my sister, Mercedes, washes the clothes while she stands in the water without shoes; she hits the clothes with a piece of wood.

Raul Speek aged 9 years

Me, aged 9

Pedro My Adopted Father

Pedro, my adopted father

My family in Guantanamo

My family in Guantanamo

Normally Chilo is the one who does the cooking; she reminds me of a bibijagua – an ant which lives in the forest and who works throughout the day carrying objects bigger than themselves. She is like my mother. She looks after me all the time. Part of the day she carries me slung around her hips, one of my feet is behind her and the other in front. She has one of her arms behind me to support me while she carries on doing the housework with her other hand. She normally has to cook for eight to ten people three times in one day, as well as all the rest of the things she has to do in the house, like making beds, cleaning floors etc.

For more of Raul’s biography, see ‘Child of the Revolution’ and look out for the book he is currently writing.

A small selection of works held in Raul’s private collection