Rafters Goodbye

Janis Lewin, American, born 1949



Gelatin silver print


Image: 8 × 12 1/16 in. (20.3 × 30.6 cm)

Sheet: 10 15/16 × 14 1/16 in. (27.8 × 35.7 cm)

Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth: Purchased through the Claire and Richard P. Morse 1953 Fund, the Robert J. Strasenburgh II 1942 Fund, the Contemporary Art Fund, the Elizabeth and David C. Lowenstein '67 Fund, the Olivia H. Parker and John O. Parker '58 Acquisition Fund, the Virginia and Preston T. Kelsey 1958 Fund and the Sondra and Charles Gilman Jr. Foundation Fund


Portfolio / Series Title

Balseros 1994


Place Made: Cuba, Caribbean, Central America


20th century

Object Name


Research Area


Not on view


Signed and inscribed, on reverse, bottom edge, in graphite: 4/10 Guanabo, Cuba 1994 Janis Lewin


In 1994, responding to mounting public pressure, Fidel Castro temporarily lifted the ban on travel from Cuba, and the largest number of people since 1980 left the island. Facing an arduous journey in hopes of radical change, these Cuban rafters, or balseros, become pilgrims. Moving from home to the unknown, they sought total transformation of their circumstances.

Janis Lewin’s photographs capture powerful scenes of the rafters’ departures. Images of migrants moving rafts through the streets convey excitement and urgency through the swells of people and the tension of the bodies. In Raft Lowering, we find a man looking back at us, his expression filled with hope, joy, and anticipation. Rafters Goodbye, however, shows the bittersweet nature of the departure and the anxieties associated with the trip. Setting out meant staking their lives on the hope of reaching the United States, with the understanding that a return to Cuba would be improbable.

From the 2022 exhibition A Space for Dialogue 108, Journeys Beyond: Faces and Forms of Pilgrimage, curated by Emily Charland '19, Erbe Intern

Course History

COLT 10.21, Coming to America, Gerd Gemunden, Spring 2019

Exhibition History

A Space for Dialogue 108, Journeys Beyond: Faces and Forms of Pilgrimage, Alvin P. Gutman Gallery, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover New Hampshire, August 27 - October 22, 2022.


Big Town Gallery, Rochester, Vermont; sold to present collection, 2017.

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