‘El Sexto’ – “Myths are very dangerous, but an idea can break them.”
‘El Sexto’: “Myths are very dangerous, but an idea can break them.” /
14ymedio, Maria Tejero Martin
EFE (via 14ymedio), Maria Tejero Martin, Oslo, 24 May 2016 – Danilo
Maldonado is known as El Sexto the name engraved in ink on his skin and
that he paints on the walls of Havana to plant an idea of freedom in his
compatriots, like a seed that flourishes and breaks the “dangerous
myths” that, he says, surround Cuba.
When he was nine he caused his mother grief when he drew Fidel Castro in
his military uniform but with the head of a monkey; by his twenties he
had decided to turn himself into the antihero El Sexto (The Sixth), in
response to the regime’s campaign to free Los Cinco (The Five), Cuban
agents arrested in the United States.
In his thirties, after the United States initiated contacts with Cuba
after years of the embargo, Maldonado “knew I would go to jail” he told
EFE, when he was inspired to paint the names “Raul” and “Fidel” on the
backs of two pigs for a piece of Orwellian inspired performance art
which he was unable to carry out.
“The worst thing is that I never got to release them, but I went to
jail, I went to jail for something that never existed, without cause or
role,” explained Maldonado, who was declared a prisoner of conscience by
His incarceration prevented him from collecting the Vaclav Havel Prize
for creative dissent a year ago in Oslo, and today he is in the
Norwegian capital for the first time, where he is participating in the
Oslo Freedom Forum, although he says that he has already attended this
annual forum of activists and defenders of human rights “in conscience.”
This is a basic word for this artist who considers himself a “prisoner
of conscience” who seeks to “awaken” the conscience of Cubans and open
the eyes of foreigners whose romanticism prevents them from seeing that
the vintage cars that circulate around Havana “means that we are stuck
Meanwhile he draws on a page, showing the Little Prince that he carries
on his long lean arm. And if, as Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s character
would say, “the essence is invisible to the eyes,” Maldonado feels that
his mission is to attack just there, on the plane of abstract
consciousness, where he “works with things that don’t exist to make them
Like freedom in Cuba, he laments, although he is “sure” that art will
first bring rights to the island and later allow them to become reality,
in the same way, he explains, that he conceived the hunger strike he
undertook in prison as a work of art titled “Mao’s awakening.”
“I said that if consciousness could change what is, it should save me
from there, I would die because I would have been talking complete shit.
The bars have to opened by the hands of the repressor himself, only in
this way will art exist. And so it happened,” he affirmed.
Maldonado believes that art can serve as a catalyst for any change, like
a predecessor, and says that “an idea can destroy what exists.” Even the
“I want to bring down a dictatorship that has lasted for a very long
time in my country, demystify it and demystify the false canons it was
selling, like that of Che Guevara,” says El Sexto.
“Often it sold [the idea] that wearing green and roaming the world with
weapons was cool. And it is not cool. Cool was a guy like Martin Luther
King, Mahatma Gandhi or Christ. But cool is not the type of people who
believe they are rebels and what they are is a murderer who wants to
impose his idea,” he added.
Maldonado does not mince words, either to defend the caricatures of
Muhammad or to charge his followers who have spent centuries killing in
“That is what I don’t want to have happen in my country, that I die and
that fucking nutcase passes as a savior. What I want is that my art
demystifies and destroys him, leaves his essence in the base and that
people understand he is not good,” he says, referring to Castro.
For him, he is confident that “art can do anything,” even with some
“very dangerous myths.”
“They manage to go on for so long that if people don’t chip away at them
they are more dangerous dead than alive. But an idea can destroy and
undermine anything (…) That is why they fear me and follow me. They took
me prisoner because they know of this influence,” says the artist, who
says he will continue living in Cuba and will give his life for what he
considers his duty: “Awakening” consciences.
Source: ‘El Sexto’: “Myths are very dangerous, but an idea can break
them.” / 14ymedio, Maria Tejero Martin – Translating Cuba –