Susana Pilar, a multi-talented Cuban artist

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Susana Pilar is the second artist from our homemade AKAA selectionAKAA throughout the year.

She is a multi-talented artist with a strong relation to the time. Indeed, Susana looks at the past and History to focus on various themes. Of course, it is always connected to her personal experience and her interests for body, gender, race and social issues. The cherry on cake comes from her transdisciplinary projects using various media. Susana Pilar uses our current communication tools: video, photography, new media, writing or even sound installation.


Susana Pilar at the AKAA 2018

As soon as we came in the fair location, we have been attracted by those huge mirors and women photographies. Without being familiar with the background of this installation, we felt the relation with the time. The reflection effect doubled it. The black women on the pictures could have been our Mums, Aunties, Grand ma’… It actually reminded us the photos of the 70s people that love to take in Africa. However, Susana Pilar comes from Cuba and these women are her relatives.

Our curiosity rose.


Susana Pilar's monumental installation at AKAA 2018
Susana Pilar’s monumental installation at AKAA 2018 – credits: Susana Pilar/ AKAA-Also Known As Africa

Interview with Susana Pilar

For each edition, the AKAA fair – Also Known As Africa – welcomes the artwork of an artist as a monumental installation. In 2018, a glass made exhibition from Susana Pilar has been the one chosen. It has been supported by the Galleria Continua.

Susana told us more about Lo que cuentaba la abuela.


What’s the meaning of this exhibition?

“As you can see, there are pictures of women only. They’re all family members: mum, grand-mother, great grand-mother, aunt, sister…

On one hand, they represent the path I followed to create this installation focusing on the time, history and roots. Most of the knowledge I have about my family comes from them. On the other hand, they represent strong references in my life.”


Right in the middle of her answer the artist was interupted by some people. They were walking through the glass monumental installation without paying attention. Some even touched them or leant on them. Obviously, these visitors did not realise that it was an artwork and also part of the fair.

From this, some questions poped-up:

  • What do we consider as being an artwork?
  • What should art look like?
  • Where should it be?



Has your family already visited the exhibition?

“They haven’t seen it yet. So far, it has only happened in Italy and France.

However, they did followed the research process and saw all the archives. They gave some pictures. Of course, I learned a lot about the family by asking some of them.”


Why this title “lo que cuentaba la abuela” (What my grand-mother told me)?

“She taught me a lot about the family. This served as basis to organise my research, especially into the archives. As you know, in Cuba many people originally came from Africa; some of my ancestors were among them. These people have been forced to leave their homeland. They have been separated from each other and ended up speaking different languages. So, It has been difficult to transfer the immaterial legacy and the family story.”

Therefore, What my grand-mother told me has a priceless value. From this, I have created a universe and enlarged my family story.


How long did the investigation process take place and how was it?

“Well, I can’t give a duration, as it wasn’t a continuous process. First, it has started by looking into my memories and getting pieces of information from my relatives. Then, I also investigated the archives. However, there is not so much data. There are mainly trade documents or negative facts, death of people for instance.

It is also the reason why I must use my imagination. I want to share another vision of the past.”


Susana Pilar’s artwork is impressive. Seeing such pictures, in that size is not common. Then, when you really pay attention to this monumental installation, you find yourself travelling. It is also interesting to follow the artist’s family story through women only.

She is definitely an artist we’re going to keep eyes on!


Discover Yassine Balbzioui, our 1st artist for AKAA throughout the year