AUCKLAND, New Zealand — “Hurricane Irma devastated hundreds of families in Cuba,” Mario Alzugarary, above right, Cuba’s ambassador to New Zealand, told those attending the opening of a three-day art exhibit and auction at the George Fraser Gallery, Dec. 14. It was organized to raise funds for rebuilding in Cuba after the destruction from the huge storm. “The money raised here will rebuild a wall or help a family buy furniture,” Alzugarary said.
He described the preparations made by the Cuban government to mobilize working people to immediately begin rebuilding. “Electricity was restored in two weeks,” Alzugarary said. He contrasted the response of Cuba’s revolutionary leadership to that of the U.S. to the carnage unleashed in its colony of Puerto Rico. “People are still struggling there, and some won’t get electricity until next year,” he said.
“I had a bed made up in my house for anyone who needed it,” Cuban artist Osmeivy Ortega said in a letter sent from Havana, describing how Cuban working people and their revolutionary government made preparations to support everyone caught in the hurricane’s path.
Staff at Otahuhu College in Auckland donated prints given to them by Ortega to the exhibit. The Cuban artist came to the school in August for five weeks, working with students to make a mural for Auckland Airport. Students donated Maori carvings they had created.
Malcolm McAllister, second right, an art teacher at the school and organizer of the fundraiser, told the New Zealand Herald they wanted to help Cuba because “there are a number of students that come from the Pacific Islands and they’re not unfamiliar with the damage a hurricane can cause.”
Alongside Ortega’s work were prints by other Cuban artists donated by the Cuban Embassy. There were some 130 pieces contributed by artists in New Zealand, including well-known painters and printmakers Michel Tuffery, John Walsh, Stephen Ellis and Seraphine Pick.