ReSignificatons 2018: The Black Mediterranean - Schedule


Wednesday 6 June 2018

Palazzo Chiaramonte Steri
University of Palermo, Piazza Marina


4:00PM - 7:00PM REGISTRATION - Palazzo Steri

5:45PM - 6:00PM Saluti del Rettore

6:00PM - 6:15PM Saluti delle autorità

6:15PM - 6:30PM Benvenuto

6:30PM - 7:30PM CONVERSATION - Wole Soyinka & Reception

7:30PM - 9:30PM

OPENING - Wole Soyinka: Antiquities Across Times and Place by curator Awam Ampka

PERFORMANCE - Alfie Nze's "A Dance in Palermo's Forest"


Thursday 7 June 2018 - Museo delle Marionette


8:30AM - 9:00AM COFFEE/TEA

9:00AM - 10:30AM Panel 1
Black Italia 2.0
INVERNOMUTO, Angelica Pesarini, Adama Sanneh, Theophilus Marboah, Mackda Ghebremariam Tesfau'
Moderator Alessandra Di Maio

10:45AM - 12:15PM Panel 2
Fluid Archives
Panelists Pap Khouma, Salah Methnani, Shelleen Greene, Janine Gaëlle Dieudji
Moderator Mauricio Calbi

1:30PM - 3:00PM Panel 4
Tastemakers Africa
Panelists Jidenna Mobbisson, Joshua Kissi, Mahaneela Choudry-Reid, Trevor Stuurman
Moderator Cherae Robinson

3:15PM - 4:45PM Panel 6
Music: Reimagining Sounds
Panelists Nouri Gana, Matthew Morrison, Imani Uzuri, Robert G. O'Meally
Moderator Kathryn Lachman

5:00PM - 6:30PM Panel 8
The Migration Experience
Panelists Giulia de Spuches, Maaza Mengiste, Lorenzo Rinelli, Agatha Palma
Moderator Carmen Concilio

Thursday 7 June 2018 - Palazzo Sant'Elia

10:45AM - 12:15PM Panel 3
The Challenges of Second Generation African Italian Women
Igiaba Scego, Isoke Aikpitanyi, Cristina Ali Farah, Djarah Khan, Ada Ugo abara, Veronica Fernandes
Moderator Lidia Curti

1:30PM - 3:00PM Panel 5
Intersections: Africa, Asia, Europe
Henry John Drewal, Ella Shohat, Gunja SenGupta, Jordan Rogers, Francoise Lionnet
Moderator Anna Arabindan-Kesson

3:15PM - 4:45PM Panel 7
Ghostships & Other Narratives
Panelists Moira Hille, Ayesha Hameed, Anna Arabindan-Kesson, Ayasha Guerin, Lori A De Lucia
Moderator Patricia McKelvin

5:00PM - 6:30PM Panel 9
Home and Other Stories
Panelists Debora Spini, Simanique Moody, Bob Stam, Luis Rincon Alba, Kajahl Benes
Moderator Pamela Newkirk

7:00PM - 9:00PM
ReSignifications by Awam Ampka and Ellyn Toscano

Friday 8 June 2018 - Museo delle Marionette

9:00AM - 10:30AM Panel 10
Africa/ Italia
Giuseppe Grimaldi, Mahnaz Yousefzadeh, Nicola Cloete & Donato Somma
Moderator Luigi Cazzato

10:45AM - 12:15PM Panel 12
Moors, Blackamoors and Blackface
Eileen Ryan, Ramatu Musa, Angelita Reyes, Carlton Wilkinson, Robert Holmes, Mônica Cardim
Moderator Shelleen Greene

12:30PM - 2:00PM Panel 14
Framing Art, Artists and Fashion
Justin Randolph Thompson, Sonya Clark, Enrica Picarelli, Alexander Newman & Rachel Newman, Shani Jamila
Moderator Kalia Brooks

Friday 8 June 2018 - Palazzo Sant'Elia

9:00AM - 10:30AM  Panel 11
Visualizing Travel
Sarah K. Khan, Heike Raphael-Hernandez, Liz Andrews, Lidia Curti
Moderator Bhakti Shringarpure

10:45AM - 12:15PM Panel 13
Fabio La Mantia, Anna Tedesco, Virginia Monteforte, Lorgia Garcia-Pena & Medhin Paolos
Moderator Kathryn Lachman

12:30PM - 2:00PM Panel 15
Memory, Memorials and History
Vera Grant, Omari Ra, Sylvie Fortin, Belinda Zhawi, Cecilio M. Cooper
Moderator by Paulette Young

Saturday 9 June 2018 - GNV Atlas

9:00AM - 10:30AM Panel 16 The Black Mediterranean
Panelists Paul Gilroy, Iain Chambers, Mauro Pala
Moderator Ella Shohat

10:45AM - 12:15PM Panel 17 Burning it
Panelists Angela Caponnetto, Dagmawi Yimer, Bhakti Shringarpure, Timothy Raeymaekers
Moderator Nouri Gana

Venues + Map

Palazzo Chiaramonte Steri
Piazza Marina 59, 90133 Palermo PA, Italy

Via Paolo Gili 4 Palermo - Sicilia

Museo Internazionale delle Marionette Antonio Pasqualino (International Puppet Museum Antonio Pasqualino)
Piazza Antonio Pasqualino, 5, 90133 Palermo PA, Italy

Palazzo Sant'Elia
Via Maqueda, 81, 90133 Palermo PA, Italy

Exhibition Info

Wole Soyinka: Antiquities Across Times and Place by curator Awam Ampka

"What does it mean when artists collect art?"  Wole Soyinka: Antiquities Across Times and Place presents Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka's personal collection along with a series of "collectors confession's" showing his purpose behind collecting. Soyinka has used many of these works as literary devices and stimuli in many of his writings. These contemporary interpretations of African art motifs challenges notions of authorship, dating and authencity to stress ancestral memories and their modern day incarnations as modes of being and becoming in the world. Just as he is in conversation with his art, curator Awam Amkpa chose contemporary works that would be in conversation with Soyinka's collection and literary works. Featured in this exhibition are: Olu Amoda, Peju Alatise, Moyo Okediji, Chris Abani, Tunde Kalani, and Peter Badejo.

ReSignifications by Awam Ampka and Ellen Toscano

Resignifications by Awam Ampka and Ellen Toscano

“My color does not disfigure my honor or my wit.” – Alfonso Alvares

ReSignifications links classical and popular representations of African bodies in European art, culture and history. It moderates and subverts artistic conventions by using the works of contemporary artists from Africa, Europe, North and South America and the Caribbean to engage in dialogue with the broad historical array of ornamental representations of African bodies. The artists in this exhibition speak against the background of the connected histories of Europe and Africa, and the African Diasporas. Starting from the ubiquitous model of decorative art known as the “Blackamoor,” ReSignifications confronts the representation of African bodies in various forms of service–as domestic servants, courtiers, soldiers, priests, and others–with audacious presentations of such bodies as protagonists of histories and cultures. The exhibition combines styles across time and place to reframe and refract the history of representing African and African diasporic bodies. The unusual juxtaposition of these works gives the exhibition its texture and flavor, thereby underscoring the words of Giambattista Marino (1569-1625): “Nera sì, ma se' bella.” (“Black yes, but so beautiful”).

Read More @ The Cooper Gallery

Panel Abstracts and Additional Info

Thursday 7 June 2018

Panel 1 Black Italia 2.0

9:00AM - 10:30AM Museo delle Marionette

INVERNOMUTO – Visual Artists
– The Stereotype of the Black Venus in Italy is a video-essay commissioned for the exhibition Nero su Bianco (Black on White) at American Academy in Rome, curated by Lyle Ashton Harris, Peter Benson Miller and Robert Storr. This film examines the construction of the image of the black female body in Italian society, from the colonial age to modern times, exposing detrimental stereotypes that date back to the XIX century. The European fascination with Saartjie Baartman (the so-called “Hottentot Venus”), the unearthing of photographs of Abyssinian women commissioned by the Istituto Luce, Italian Mondo movies of the 60s and 70s, advertising campaigns of the 80s, and in more recent times, in the media frenzy surrounding the scandal of Berlusconi and Ruby Rubacuori, are all phenomena associated with this layered history.

Angelica Pesarini – NYU Florence
“The White Race is at Risk”. Race, Gender and Nation in Contemporary Italian Political Discourse
The shooting occurred in Macerata in February 2018, followed a month later by the murder of Idy Diene in Florence, marking the tail-end of a vitriolic electoral campaign in which anti-Black racism and immigration were strategically used, with the complicity of the media, by both right- and left-wing parties in order to score votes. In the year marking the eightieth anniversary of the racial laws, this paper will examine three specific case studies highlighting explicit connections between the contemporary Italian political discourse on identity and fascist principles of biological racism and eugenics. Within this context, the appropriation and exploitation of women’s bodies appears to function as the symbolic bridge connecting the ideology of blood to the Nation and able to (re)define and defend the "real Italian" from dangerous external contamination.

Adama Sanneh – Moleskine Foundation
Can Creativity Change the World?
The Moleskine Foundation is a non-profit organization that believes that quality education is key to producing positive change in society and driving our collective future. Focusing on communities affected by cultural and social deprivation, the Foundation is committed to providing youth with unconventional educational tools and experiences that help foster critical thinking, creativity and life-long learning. To achieve this, the Foundation works at the intersection of three focus areas: innovative education, art and culture for social transformation, advocacy and cross-cultural sensitization. With a special focus on Africa and its diaspora, the Foundation works closely with local organizations to fund, support and co-create a wide range of distinctive initiatives. Together with our partners and grantees, it strives to catalyze systemic change through an open, participatory and cross-sectorial approach. The Co-Founder and COO Adama Sanneh will present the new strategy of the Foundation and its main initiatives with a specific focus on the role that creativity and art can play in social transformation.

Theophilus Marboah – University of Pavia
Echoes and Agreements
All images are related to other images. Rhymes that create visual conversations that unfold concealed meanings. Echi e Accordi (Echoes and Agreements) – an experimental work started on Instagram and Facebook – brings together, in the form of diptychs, images hailing from the Black diaspora (photographs of artworks and from archives) and photographs of European art. Each diptych creates an inter/intra-dialogue that stimulates new interpretations in reading Black images.

Mackda Ghebremariam Tesfau' – University of Padua
"It has been said it was not racism": Italy after Macerata and Florence
The postcolonial literature on Italy has shown how processes of racialization have been constitutive of the "becoming a nation" of the country. Still, narratives such as "Italians good people", the “Mediterranean métissage” and the “emigrants land” work to obscure the structural dimension of racism. After the racist attacks in Macerata and Florence, mainstream politics and media tended to depict the events in terms of “migration” and “security”. Discourses on the so-called "refugee crisis" and the precarious reception system have been repeatedly used to conceal racism and race. Moreover, racism seems to be recognized only when acted by far-right individuals, thus relegating it to an anachronistic past and withholding its institutional and every-day dimension. The presentation aims to analyze the public responses to Macerata and Florence – including politicians' statements as well as activists' demonstrations - in order to bring out some of the distinctive features of the Italian "racism without racists".

Panel 2 Fluid Archives

10:45AM - 12:15PM Museo delle Marionette

10:45AM - 12:15PM


Panel 2: Fluid Archives 

Moderator Maurizio Calbi 


Pap Khouma - Journalist, Writer 


Rediscovering roots. He left Italy, first of all to escape the rampant consumerism of the Western world and secondly because he no longer felt comfortable in his own country, where he was considered a foreigner. The police stopped him continually and always doubted his personal details that he gave them. He is black, under thirty, Italian name and surname and is an Italian citizen. He is well educated, handsome, very tall, broad shouldered, bright eyed and with a perfect Milanese accent, a person who undoubtedly has to hide something fishy... The young, black Italian looks around for help, he is in full view of the people, his countrymen. The village square is crowded but nobody takes his side, not even the people who a moment before were clapping and waving their Italian flags to the beat of his drum. 

Salah Methnani – Writer, Reporter and Film Maker 

One Way Ticket 

Travelling around the world is becoming more and more difficult for thousands of people who dreamed of a chance to move from the south to the wealthy countries of the North. When a person decides to go around and visit different countries and meet with other cultures he used to buy a round trip ticket. Things have changed since a big wall was built to prevent those people from reaching the So-Called European Paradise. Many of them started the voyage risking their lives in order to break the Wall. A lot of them lost their way while crossing the Mediterranean Sea. Their dreams where betrayed. The Mare Nostrum became in the last years a big open Cemetery for youth escaping from war, poverty and dictatorship. They left their countries aware of the fact that they may never come back home, and decided to get a "One way ticket"... 

Shelleen Greene – UCLA 

The Place and Time of Italian Postcolonialism: Experimental Film and the Migrant Condition 

This presentation examines the use of experimental film to articulate an Italian postcolonial migrant condition. I argue the films of Nico Angiuli (Tre Titoli: An ensemble film, 2015), Kevin Jerome Everson (Rhinoceros, 2013), and Isaac Julien (Western Union: small boats, 2007) deploy architectural sites to construct the dischronic temporalities of Italian postcolonialism and migrancy. In Tre Titoli, rural landscapes are collapsed with the city of Cierignola’s Duomo Tonti, interchanging the Italian and African residents by way of passage through antique ruins and neoclassical architecture. Western Union: small boats was partially filmed in the Palazzo Gangi, the palace in which Visconti filmed the ballroom sequence of his revisionist history of the unification, The Leopard (1962). Finally, Rhinoceros was filmed at the Villa la Pietra in Florence. The use of the Villa la Pietra as mise en scene directs us to the presence of black Africans in early modern Europe. 

Janine Gaëlle Dieudji – Museum of African Contemporary Art Al Maaden 

Contemporary Art in Africa: Building and Sharing a Common Heritage 

The recent frenetic excitement around African contemporary art reflects, among other things, a cultural revolution within the old continent, with the will of the actors to be themselves bearers and makers of a history and a common heritage, rich in its diversity. From Marrakech to Cotonou, via Cape Town, Accra, Lubumbashi and Bandjoun, private cultural institutions flourish and demonstrate creativity and innovation to face the challenges, with the key words: Education, awareness and integration. On the one hand, to position Culture as a true mean of development outside of political, geographical and social constraints, on the other hand the affirmation of the necessity of contemporary art in our societies. The conference will be an opportunity to explore and analyse the contemporary art scene in Africa, including the status of the artist, structures and audiences, and the importance of art as an instrument of awakening and social integration. 

Panel 3 The Challenges of Second Generation African Italian Women

10:45AM - 12:15PM Palazzo Sant'Elia


Panel 3: The Challenges of Second Generation African Italian Women 

Moderator: Lidia Curti – University of Naples, 'Orientale'


Igiaba Scego – Writer, International Center for Humanities and Social Change University of Venice Ca' Foscari

In between, AfroItalian identity 

Being Italian, being Black, living between identities and dreams.

Isoke Aikpitanyi – Activist, Associazione vittime ed ex vittime della tratta 

The Girls of Benin City

My book "Girls from Benin city" tells my story as a victim of sex trafficking. I had not yet turned 20 when I arrived in Europe to find work. I found myself in Italy, forced to prostituirmi. I had no way out..When I rebelled, I was almost killed by traffickers. My story also relates to those of many other young Nigerians who like me ended in hell. The book has obtained awards. It was presented on TV, on the radio, in social media. Feeling stronger because of its popularity, I could start social activities, including "The House of Isoke", supported economically with the copyrights of the book, which has sold 50 thousand copies in English. 

Cristina Ali Farah – Writer

Resignifying Antigone 

Presenting an excerpt of a rewriting of Sophocle’s Antigone, which is both the result of personal research on political translations of the tragedy and workshops that saw the participation of professional actors, theatre students and musicians of different cultural backgrounds in Palermo. By inscribing Antigone’s struggle in a city like Palermo, which is today a major port of refuge for African migrants, I’ll investigate her representative value in its artistically and culturally diverse surroundings. Crucial in Sophocle’s Antigone is the conflict between the protagonist, who stays true to the laws of the gods and her personal morality, and Creon, who believes in the superiority of the laws of the state and public morality. Today, values such as empathy, justice, morality are pivotal to undermining the public discourse in the Western countries on issues such as citizenship, migration and human rights. Resignifying Antigone is an attempt to articulate and renew the law she introduced.

Djarah Akan – Writer, Singer, Blogger 

La Negra – The Black Negro Girl

In this reading, I try to talk about my experience of being a Black woman in a White male society. The history of the Black people in America is deeply different from the Story of Black people in Italy but in both places being Black, negro and girl always get unsolved question about race, gender and class. 

Ada Ugo Abara – CONGI, G2 Activist

What It’s Like to be a Second-Generation Italian 

This talk is about the emergence of the second generation in Italy. It draws in-depth on the attitude of young African-Italians, concentrating on issues of citizenship and belonging. Second generation subjects continues to be marginalised in the contemporary immigration debate in Italy.

Veronica Fernandes – TV Journalist 

What's it like being black in Italy?

This paper is about the black representation in Italian Media (newspaper/television) 


Panel 4 Tastemakers Africa

1:30PM - 3:00PM Museo delle Marionette

1:30 – 3:00PM


Panel 4: Tastemakers Africa

Moderator: Cherae Robinson 


Jidenna Mobbisson 

Joshua Kissi

Mahaneela Choudry-Reid 

Trevor Stuurman


PANEL 5 Intersections: Africa, Asia, Europe

1:30PM - 3:00PM Palazzo Sant'Elia


Panel 5: Intersections: Africa, Asia, Europe 

Moderator: Anna Arabindan-Kesson – Princeton University


Henry John Drewal – University of Wisconsin-Madison

BLACKsmiths of Morocco 

In the winter and spring of 2017 I interviewed, filmed, photographed, and worked with blacksmiths in Morocco, all of whom trace their roots to sub-Saharan Africa and are known as “people of the desert.” This intraAfrican diaspora brought distinctive elements to the complex mix of cultures (Amazigh [Berber], Arab, Jewish) in Morocco. Many blacksmiths are Sufi followers of mystical branches of Islam. Because of their extraordinary, so-called “magical” gifts as transformers, blacksmiths provoke attitudes of fear, awe, and reverence, not unlike those among Mande-speaking peoples of Mali and other Afro-Moroccans known as Gnawa who use iron cymbals (qraqeb) in their healing ceremonies to evoke spirits into possession. With portraits of several blacksmiths and film clips of their masterful forging skills, this presentation explores how Moroccan blacksmiths are seen/regarded by others, their Sufi faith and relation to spirits called jinn, and how their work expresses and reflects their lives and histories.

Ella Shohat – New York University 

De-Orientalizing the Figure of the Blackamoor

A hybrid of the African Black and the Muslim Moor, the Blackamoor figure condenses representations often conceptualized in isolation within the compartmentalized cartographies of the various regions. Scrutiny of the Blackamoor sheds light on forgotten discursive continuities as well as on historical connectivities across continents and oceans, in this case, those operating along the winding Mediterranean shores of Europe, Africa, and Asia. The Blackamoor can be examined critically, as a stereotypical imaging of the racialized and gendered Black body. Here, I will pose a different set of questions: Can the putatively reassuring and domesticated Blackamoor also be viewed as a visual manifestation of an ongoing European anxiety about its “others?” Might this image of Blackamoor docility testify indirectly to a doubly repressed fear toward the neighboring continents of Africa and Asia? Could the apparent civility of the ornamental Blackamoor mask anxieties about racial mixing, cultural syncretism, and intellectual influence? 

Gunja SenGupta – Brooklyn College & Graduate Center, City University of New York

African Americans, the 'Greek Slave' and the 'Libyan Sibyl': ReSignifying the Mediterranean in Transatlantic Abolitionism 

Two iconic sculptures of enslaved women – one “white,” and the other ostensibly “African,” – injected the Mediterranean into 19th century transatlantic debates over slavery. Originally conceived in Florence against the backdrop of the Greek War of Independence from the Ottoman Empire, Hiram Powell’s “The Greek Slave” evoked for Victorian audiences, the spectacle of a helpless nude woman, exposed to the “licentious gaze of a wealthy Eastern barbarian.” By contrast, Rome-based William Story’s artwork, the “Libyan Sibyl,” reportedly inspired by Harriet Beecher Stowe’s portrait of Sojourner Truth, amalgamated European imaginaries of Africa and the “Orient.” Through the prism of these works, disparate, yet celebrated by critics in the same breath as vindicating American genius in the “grand art of sculpture,” interracial abolitionists wrote the Mediterranean variously– whether as a source of African American identity, or a framework for comparative slavery – into their struggles against the racial logic of African slavery in the Americas.

Jordan Rogers – University of Miami 

Between Manipulated Memories and Dreamed Realities: The Poetics of Gender and Nation in African Cinema

Ousmane Sembène's La Noire de… (1966), Robert Van Lierop's A Luta Continua (1973), and Flora Gomes' Nha Fala (2002) all feature strong female characters and/or protagonists at different points in Africa's turbulent relationship with western Europe during the mid-to-late twentieth century. While these directors represent different countries and language traditions, each one successfully unsettles assumptions that the place of the African woman is somewhere other than at the forefront of movements for self-determination. Though men in African diasporic cinema have historically dominated the field's cultural output, as the selected films suggest, women have consistently participated in the fight to create African nations and narratives. Drawing from black feminist and post-colonial theories, this paper will compare and analyze African female film protagonists, in order to meditate on the ways in which women have engaged in post-independence nation-building efforts, and the extent to which their efforts have been successfully portrayed in film. 

Francoise Lionnet – Harvard University

Islands of Labor: Photographing The Black Docker 

Mauritian photographer Jano Couacaud has documented the physical labor of dock workers in the capital city of Port Louis just before automation transformed the way raw sugar was loaded onto cargo ships for transport to European refineries and their markets. He records the embodied experiences and crushingly repetitive labor of “free” black men whose activity continued to mirror that of their slave ancestors. The book is a visual analogue of Sembene’s Le Docker noir or Claude McKay’s Banjo, narratives that take place in the Mediterranean port of Marseilles. Following Sarah Lewis’s argument that in a democracy, to be “an engaged citizen requires grappling with pictures, and knowing their historical contexts,” I argue that Couacaud’s photographs force us to see the dockers’ contributions to postcolonial nation-building thus to hold the Republic responsible for those whose status as full citizens continues to be in jeopardy, due to racial and ethnic prejudice.


Panel 6 Music: Reimagining Sounds

3:15PM - 4:45PM Museo delle Marionette


Panel 6: Music: Reimagining Sounds 

Moderator: Kathryn Lachman – University of Massachusetts Amherst


Robert G. O'Meally – Columbia University

Connecting Black Lines and Dots: Jelly Roll, Duke, & Miles as Afro-Mediterranean Music-Makers 

My paper emphasizes African and African imaginary elements in the musical continuum often simplistically exceptionalized as “American jazz.” I’ll focus on three recordings by major composers of the US jazz tradition: Jelly Roll Morton’s presentation of the “Spanish Tinge” (much more North and sub-Saharan African and Caribbean as well as Mediterranean than Morton realized), which he said defined jazz; part of Miles Davis’s Sketches of Spain called “Saeta,” his version of a “black Spanish” public song; and Duke Ellington’s and Billy Strayhorn’s “Such Sweet Thunder” (their portraits of Othello the Moor and other African characters in Shakespeare wherein the composers explore African dimensions in the plays as they evoke Africa in music). In 1966, when Ellington played the Cote d’Azure festival, along with “Such Sweet Thunder” he played “Circus Turn-Around Blues.” What is the relation of his Afro-Shakespearean works to this hymn to circus travel—with its own Afro-Eurasian ellipses?

Nouri Gana – UCLA 

Rap Recap: Irregular Migration and the Predicament of Hope This talk focuses on Tunisian rap music and the tragic sociocultural and geopolitical phenomenon of irregular migration across the Mediterranean sea. While the temptations of the “other shore” cannot be overstressed in a world that is gone irremediably global, at least technically or techno-culturally, the limitations placed on the movement of peoples across geographical locations beggars the imagination. This paradox of globalization is nowhere else felt more intensely than in the Mediterranean sea, which has become at once a line of flight and a graveyard for countless human lives and seasons of migration to the North. The talk will discuss especially how Tunisian rap music engaged with the phenomenon of irregular migration in a revolutionary context in which young people kept, after the ouster of Ben Ali, raising the threshold of the possible and doable by calling, for instance, not only for the liberation of Palestine, a common cause among Arab peoples, but also for the liberation of Lampedusa from Italians, a common cause among irregular migrants, or so it seems.

Matthew Morrison – New York University 

Intellectual (Public) Property, Mama Lou’s “Ta Ra Ra Boom de Ay,” and Blacksound as Public Domain in Nineteenth Century American and British Popular Music

This paper explores the growth of popular entertainment in the US and UK at the end of the nineteenth century through the genealogy of the popular tune, “Ta Ra Ra Boom De Ay,” and the eventual decision that this work belonged to the “public domain.” The song originated in a St. Louis sporting house in the late nineteenth century by famed African American entertainer, Ma Ma Lou, and serves as an example of how the sounds and performance practices of black musicians moved from regional to commercial popularity without afforded rights and royalties. Ma Ma Lou’s song sets the stage for how Tin Pan Alley musicians, 

along with mechanical and music performing rights organizations, continued to use Blacksound as the basis of popular music, shaping the sounds of records, radio, film, and other emerging technologies of global popular entertainment through copyright laws and the racialization of Intellectual (Performance) Property.

Imani Uzuri – Independent Artist and Scholar 

Fieldwork: Songs of Sanctuary for the Black Madonna

FIELDWORK: SONGS of SANCTUARY FOR THE BLACK MADONNA is centered around Imani Uzuri's research and travel toward composing a forthcoming contemporary chamber orchestral work inspired by the iconic Black Madonna. These holy Marian figures, depicted with dark skin, are currently worshipped within the Catholic and Orthodox Marian pantheon but can be traced back to pre-Christian pagan images specifically the sculpture of Isis (Auset) suckling Horus (Heru). They are also embraced, celebrated and worshipped by Muslim, Hindu, Roma and other communities, including African Diasporic communities from Brazil to Haiti, in rituals and processions around the world. Uzuri's recent international sojourns to various altars, shrines and monasteries in Italy, Kosovo, Macedonia, Prague, France, Spain, Portugal and Switzerland will provide the theoretical framework for this paper and will bring to light songs, prayers and images of these ancient Black Madonnas that center Black femininity as divine through the lens of sacredness and sexuality. 


Panel 7 Ghostships & Other Narratives

3:15PM - 4:45PM Palazzo Sant'Elia


Panel 7: Ghostships & Other Narratives 

Moderator: Liz Andrews – LACMA


Moira Hille – Academy of Fine Arts Vienna / University of Toronto, OISE

Ghost Ship – Ghostly Aesthetics, Border Regimes and Politics of Place 

In my Paper I follow Ghost Ships, ghostly aesthetics and their haunting appearances since the 18th century, their becoming phenomenon during the time of Transatlantic Slave Trade and their continuities in today’s border regimes in the Mediterranean Sea. I will focus on the recent use of the term Ghost Ship in public media for so-called refugee boats, and discuss strategies of visibility, representation and inclusion culture that go with it. I will examine what is visually but also material banned, locked and kept in the sphere of the ghostly and opaque, and will argue that the Mediterranean Sea as a place is systematically banned from our perception, a process which I refer to as ghosting. As counter strategy, I also inquire the potential of the Submarine Ghost Ship as a visual-political strategy beyond visibility and representation discourses, and its incommensurability as visual‐political potentiality.

Ayesha Hameed – Goldsmiths University of London 

Black Atlantis: Retrograde Futurism

This lecture performance is composed of notes on a film to be made and an essay to be written. On April 29, 2006, a twenty-foot boat was spotted off the south-eastern coast of Barbados. On board, eleven bodies were found by the coastguards, preserved and desiccated by the sun and salt water. The ghost ship was adrift for four months on the Atlantic Ocean. It set sail on Christmas day in Praia in the Cape Verde Islands, full of migrants from Senegal, Guinea Bissau, and Gambia, en route to the Canary Islands. Each of these men paid £890 for their place on the boat. Four months later the boat was found on the coast of Barbados. This is an inadequate telling of this story that draws on the materials and tools at hand to make sense of the complicity of weather, ocean currents and state violence in the journey of this ship. 

Anna Arabindan-Kesson – Princeton University

The Migrant's Time 

Replayed across our screens, the subject of migration is constructed through a language of crisis while women, men and children die in ever-increasing numbers. To reframe this language we need to understand the geopolitics of mobility and statelessness they figure as emerging from a longer history of crossings between Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas. Drawing on the work of a range of artists – from Robert S Duncanson to Isaac Julien to Maya Ramsey – my paper explores the interconnected histories of the Black Mediterranean and the Black Atlantic embedded in these contemporary crossings. Tracing how these artists reframe Italy as a center of historical and contemporary circuits of movement, I explore the multiple experiences and shared challenges encapsulated by Ranajit Guha’s term ‘the migrant’s time.’ In doing so I want to articulate the critical possibilities this term offers for unsettling conceptions of nationhood, belonging and empathy.

Ayasha Guerin – New York University 

The Black Beach and the Sea

This project builds off my presentation at Black Portraitures: IV, which drew from the writings of Edouard Glissant to develop a framework of archipelagic thinking. Derek Walcott’s assertion that the “Sea is History” is another example of black art to have re-conceptualized the record of time in relation to water- it similarly challenged the coherence of territorial perspectives and encourages the accountability of a world in nuanced relation. Christina Sharpe’s “In the Wake” reminds us of the long residence time of the atoms of people thrown overboard during middle passages, still out there in the ocean today. I draw on these works to frame “aquapelagos” as important space for continuing to think through themes of identity, colonial linkages and temporal entanglements. I explore how "the Sea," has served an important cognitive space, a point and platform of observation, a haunted place, a place of contemplation, connection, and care. 

Lori A De Lucia – UCLA

Between Borno and Palermo: The Price of Being an Enslaved African in Early Modern Sicily 

In sixteenth century Palermo, West Africans fought in the military, were baptized in Catholic churches, lived as free men and women, and even achieved sainthood. In my presentation I will examine the sixteenth century records of one ship of enslaved people being brought from Tripoli to Palermo. Focusing on the moors and black Africans on this ship, I will analyze how early concepts of race and gender impacted the living conditions and sales of these individuals. Secondly, I will explore how this document points to the larger trans-Saharan trade networks that connected Palermo to the kingdom of Borno. With its unique connection to this kingdom, early modern Palermo will be situated as a port city integral to the conversation on the development of a black Mediterranean that spanned across the Sahara.


Panel 8 The Migration Experience

5:00PM - 6:30PM Museo delle Marionette


Panel 8: The Migration Experience 

Moderator: Carmen Concilio – University of Turin, Italy


Giulia De Spuches – University of Palermo

The Black Mediterranean: from Eight Representational Objects to Eight Geographical Narratives 

When does Europe lose its “human form”? This is when the map is established as the model of Modernity that puts the other technical and narrative dispositifs “off the scene”. This work aims to bring out these “off-scene” by resignifying representations through 8 narratives. It is a variable geography of distance marked by shipwrecks with a spectator, doors as thresholds and, despite everything, porous borders that asks how to inhabit the diaspora. In the space of this distance, marked by the two shores, the Black Mediterranean is the new archive that tells how Italy is not, and never was, white. It seems to us that, following Du Bois's considerations, the stakes today are the same as those of the 20th century: how much depth the color-line has!

Maaza Mengiste – Queens College, City University of New York 

In Predatory Light Maaza Mengiste will be reading from her forthcoming novel, The Shadow King, set during Mussolini's invasion of Ethiopia in 1935. The book is inspired by photographs depicting civilians and soldiers during the war.

Lorenzo Rinelli – Temple University 

Foreignness, Forensics, and Entanglement in the Black Mediterranean

In an attempt to make sense of precarious African migrant lives and deaths that do not find articulation within the dominant forensic and evidentiary practices, this paper reads life stories (and necrobiographies) of African presence in Italy. We follow the stories of Nike Favor Adekune, a young Nigerian woman sexually trafficked in Palermo whose body was found in the Misilmeri countryside in December 2011 and of Dagmawi Yimer and his documentary film, Like a Man on Earth (Segre & Yimer 2008) which provide a broader necrography and forensics of life and death. Read together, Nike’s and Dag’s life/death stories serve as amatuer forensic vehicles that reveal and recalls Italian colonialism in Libya, Eritrea and Ethiopia in the past while highlighting the precarious presence of Africans in Italy today and the forms of life, death, and livelihoods that emerge in these zones of entanglement. 

Agatha Palma – UCLA

Mapping the Racial City: Migrants, Southerners, and the Mediterranean Imaginary in Palermo, Sicily 

What does it mean to occupy urban space in the Mediterranean while Black? Sicily is popularly imagined as a liminal zone where Europe meets Africa – the gateway to Europe for migrants, or the very end of Europe for Europeans. In this paper, I explore the interrelatedness between migrant and local precarity in Mediterranean Europe, and the anti-Blackness in a place long considered the “Africa” of Europe. This paper traces the quotidian lives of African migrants, Afro-Italians, and locals in Palermo, Sicily. I map my participants’ daily interactions with the city, paying particular attention to imaginations of urban space. I follow my participants as they navigate the city, as racialized or lower-class insiders/outsiders. I explore how they inhabit and create meaning out of urban space, and how that maps on to larger geographic imaginaries and racial topographies.


Panel 9 Home and Other Stories

5:00PM - 6:30PM Palazzo Sant'Elia


Panel 9: Home and Other Stories 

Moderator: Pamela Newkirk – New York University


Debora Spini – NYU Florence

Where is Home? 

Send them back home, aiutiamoli a casa loro, ils arrivent chez nous – references to “home” are central in the discourse of ethnocentric populism, reinforcing the perception of the invasion of Europe. The underlying assumption is that membership in a political community depends by an eternal, non-negotiable connection to a community of nation and territory –a “home”, which as such is defined by a series of “natural” hierarchies. My paper argues that xenophobic populism reveals the unresolved contradictions of modern democratic citizenship and of it self-understanding as a political space defined by individual and universal rights. Moving from a definition of populism as the distorted image of democracy, it analyses how crucial the reference to a sacred bond among (male) brothers still is for modern democratic communities, making it hard to imagine grounds and strategies for a genuinely inclusive democratic political space where every person could feel at “home”.

Simanique Moody – Leiden University 

Examining Language Contact, Identity, and Belonging in Two African Diaspora Communities in the Netherlands

This paper examines language, identity, and belonging in Sierra Leonean and Somali communities in the Netherlands. For many in these communities, much of their lived experience has been characterized by time and space: moving from one place to another, waiting for prolonged periods, and being permanently "temporary" in some cases. These diasporic communities, connected by a shared sense of disconnectedness, find themselves in ever-changing linguistic and cultural contact zones (Pratt 1991). In this permanent temporariness, language plays an essential role in the process of articulating and renegotiating their identity at different points along their life journey and thus functions as one of the most important markers of identity for African diaspora communities in Europe. Using in-depth ethnographic and sociolinguistic observation, this paper analyzes how certain African diaspora communities construct and negotiate various aspects of their identity in the face of ongoing societal changes. 

Robert Stam – New York University

Brazil, Portugal, the Favela and the Mediatic Spectrum 

The favelas of Rio de Janeiro have become famous around the world largely due to the celebrated films – going back to Black Orpheus and continuing up through City of God – that have treated the subject. This lecture-video presentation will give a vivid sense of the history of black Rio ever since the abolition of slavery as represented across the mediatic spectrum – not only through feature films but also through documentaries, music videos, web series, cable TV satire, activist websites, and so forth. The talk will relativize and contextualize the misleading impression conveyed by films such as Elite Squad and City of God of favelas as the sites merely of relentless violence to reveal the favelas as loci of creativity, activism, and resistance. Luis Rincon Alba – New York University

Through performances, images, objects, music, and rituals from the Caribbean this panel opens up a dialogue between two scholars from this region (Cuba and Colombia) and the ways these cultural phenomena the intimacies, raptures, continuities that allow them to subvert predominant narratives about the relation between the Americas and Europe. This subversion allows their academic research and artistic practices to encounter perform a reconsideration of Atlantic popular culture, carnivals, festivities, masks, blackface practices, cultural circulation and contentions, saints/ancestors, embodied memory, surrogacy/forgetfulness, exorcism/executions/dismemberment, living mementos. In this panel each participant proposes a “troubling” object/performance that incorporates all this aspects in order to explore the modes through which they incorporate living memories and subversive epistemologies. 

Kajahl Benes - New York Academy of Art

Obscure Origins 

Working in the medium of oil on canvas Kajahl resurrects subjects that are lying dormant in historical archives. Kajahl’s portraits combine iconography from African, Asian, European, and Pre-Columbian traditions. The fusion of these symbols results in the creation of enigmatic artworks that foreground the forgotten past and reanimate minor artifacts of history into transformative assemblages. Without a need for chronological consistency or narrative support, Much like Mary Shelley's Victor Frankenstein, who gave life to a humanoid from non living matter, Kajahl seamlessly sews parts together from the fringe of art history into new transformative identities.



Panel 10 Africa/Italia

9:00AM - 10:30AM Museo delle Marionette


Panel 10: Africa/Italia 

Moderator: Luigi Cazzato – University of Bari “Aldo Moro”


Giuseppe Grimaldi – University of Milano Bicocca

The Black Mediterranean and the Citizens/Refugees Convivence? 

The paper offers an ethnographic perspective to work the national paradigm in the wake of the Black Mediterranean. I focus on Milanese of Ethiopian and Eritrean origins (the so called second generations) changing identification patterns. Specifically, I investigate their everyday cohabitation with refugees from the Horn of Africa since the outbreak of the “refugees emergency” in Italy. The citizens/refugees convivence, I argue, rather than representing the clue of an ethnic based continuity, reveals the contours of the Black Mediterranean. On the one hand it allows to consider the differential categories reproducing the Italian national paradigm and its structural otherness out of legal categories. On the other hand, it allows to work the new set of practices producing emerging Afro-European subjectivities. The Black Mediterranean may configure as a vantage point in the analysis of emerging social patterns re-signifying hegemonic national categories.

Mahnaz Yousefzadeh – New York University 

Saved by the Medusa: Medici Saracen from Bargello to Met Breuer

This paper will present the question of survival and transfiguration within the archives and across Italian and American institutions, of Buratto, a wooden statue of a black Moorish man holding a Medusa shield held in Bargello Museum. The figure was used as a theatrical prop in the wedding of Tuscan Grand Duke Francesco I in 1579, and is currently in NYC as part of Like Life: Sculpture, Color and Body exhibition at the Met Breuer: 1) The enigmatic transformation of the Moorish figure from a legless prop with a turban in 16th-century to a helmeted Persean figure holding a Medusa shield; 2) The logic of the inclusion, categorization, and thus the survival of abject statue in Italian institutions; 3) Phenomenology of my encounter with the moorish figure, who appeared in words uttered by an “Ethiopian Knight” describing the injuries he may have suffered as a target during a 1579 Joust. 

Nicola Cloete & Donato Somma

I neri bianchi: “The White Blacks” and the Reach of the European Racial Imagination 

The almost 90,000 Italian prisoners of war in South Africa during the Second World War extended the Mediterranean encounter from their capture in North Africa to South Africa. They disrupted and subverted already well-established racial categories in the colony. We trace that disruption in the memory and imagination of South Africans inter-generationally, presenting a counterpoint to more common narratives of hegemonic power by recounting the subjection of European citizens to racialized lives in Africa. The experience of political and optic blackness overlaid already complex Italian regional and class categorizations making these POWs a unique study in late 20th century racial experience. We offer a discursive and aesthetic analysis of the documentary Captivi Italici in Sud Africa (Moni) as well as theorise fictional and testimonial accounts of the POW imaginary. The paper rests on memory and narrative studies to consider the encounter between Africans and Europeans and the experience of Blackness.


Panel 11 Visualizing Travel

9:00AM - 10:30AM Palazzo Sant'Elia


Panel 11: Visualizing Travel 

Moderator: Bhakti Shringarpure


Sarah K. Khan – New York University

To Sow and To Sew: Siddi Women Farmers (and Quilters) in Uttara Kannada, Karnataka, India 

Siddi women farmers (Indians of African descent) are invisible. The shape and contour of their layered lives are little known, and less valued within and outside South Asia. I present a view into the farming and day-labor lives of Siddi women farmers, who are

also quilters in southern India--Portuguese enslaved Africans, and brought them to Goa. Over time, they fled to the Western Ghats. Today Siddi women farmers work within a larger global farming context. They endure the on-going Indian agrarian crisis while confronting tribal, caste, religious, and color discrimination. Sowing their lands and sewing their quilts, the women deserve recognition and support for their multiple contributions to a life of farming and labor. I focus on three Siddi women farmers from three villages--Mainalli, Kendalgiri, and Gunjavati in Uttara Kannada, the Indian state of Karnataka. 

Heike Raphael-Hernandez

Visualizing Protest: African Diasporic Art and Contemporary Mediterranean Crossings 

During recent years, growing attention has been paid to issues of transnational migration in public debates among people across the entire political spectrum. The changes that are taking place at fundamental levels in an increasingly multiethnic and multiracial United States as well as in most European countries have engendered heated debates in the highest political echelons as well as in exchanges between ordinary citizens about questions of who has the right to stay, who should be regarded as a mere temporary guest, who is (un)welcome as a traveler, and who should not even be granted such transitional status of a traveler. We are particularly interested in the role visual cultures play in the ways African diasporic subjects dream or fantasize diasporic connection and belonging. Our work today comes as the result of a joint two-year research fellowship granted by the American Council of Learned Societies.

Lidia Curti – University of Naples, 'Orientale' 

The Ethics and Aesthetics of Diversity

Within diasporic writings, I give attention to an uncommon and less well-known literature written in Italian by women immigrants, or of migrant descent. This literature of migration contributes to the knowledge of the Italian colonial past, a forgotten chapter in our culture, and offers a rupture in the vision of a homogeneous, white Italy, more European than Mediterranean. They transmit the voice of multidimensional marginalized subjects where instances of gender and ethnic identity, alongside differences of class and generation, intersect. The geographies outlined in these works find a correspondence in visual and video art; their texts, contexts, fabrics construct a link that goes from history to autobiography and imagination. Here the meeting of ethics and aesthetics results in a search for an emergent citizenship, contaminated, de-territorialized, contested, crossed by the traces of different histories and cultures. 


Panel 12 Moors, Blackamoors and Blackface

10:45AM - 12:15PM Museo delle Marionette


Panel 12: Moors, Blackamoors and Blackface

Moderator: Shelleen Greene


Eileen Ryan – Temple University

Blackness in Italy: Race and Belonging in the Risorgimento

In 1848, a formerly enslaved black man died while fighting alongside Garibaldi in Rome. The life of Andrés Aguiar—or Andrea “il moro”, as he was popularly known—has not been forgotten; after all, there is a stairway named in his honor in the Roman neighborhood of Trastevere. But his story, like those of so many coded as non-white in the Italian peninsula, remains at the margins of popular memory. By centering on Aguiar, my paper explores what it meant to be black and born into slavery in nineteenth century Italy. What can he can tell us about race and the construction of italianità in the movement for national unification? In my larger project, I am intent on highlighting black stories in key moments of Italian history to provide a longer historical context for the existence and experiences of black bodies in modern Italy.

Ramatu Musa – Luzern University 

The Blackamoor Brooch

Beginning in the 1920s, elite European jewelers such as Nardi, Cartier, and Verdura designed luxury brooches featuring Blackamoor imagery for a clientele that included royalty, society mavens, movie stars, and industrialists. For example, Palermo native Fulco Santostefano della Cerda (1898 – 1978), Duke of Verdura, specially designed two embracing pairs of bejeweled Blackamoor brooches for a prominent American socialite. This ornamental use of the Blackamoor figure in high-prized jewelry has a more complex history that goes beyond its sartorial glint. With its charcoal complexion, physiognomy, and pseudo-Oriental turban, the Blackamoor is a conflation of the Arab, the Black African, and the Muslim. The coded visual language seen in opulent Blackamoor brooches references past and continuous histories of race-based exploitation, appropriation, and marginalization.

Angelita Reyes – Arizona State University

From Harlequin’s Domino Mask to the Masque of Blackface: Representation, Performativity, and “Demasking” Blackface 

While there is the “inherent nobility” of Harlequin who originally performed in the Commedia dell’arte of the 16th century, that theatrical image transfigured into the ignoble representation and performativity of racialized blackface or the off-stage and on-stage black minstrel figure. Through the intersections of 19th century slave trading routes that influenced Mediterranean cultures, Renaissance portraiture, colonialism, and the visible legacies of slavery and racism, blackface results in contempt and disparagement of the black body. This research critiques blackface performativity visualized by gender-specific historical

characters within the “oceans” of the African Diaspora. I discuss from a set of interdisciplinary theoretical approaches, ways in which blackface assumes implicit racialized bias that inevitably impacts sites of global cultural and population migrations. Subsequently, I investigate ways in which we can “demask” the visual antics and implicit social cognition of demeaning blackface performativity in order to advance human dignity and the integrity of social transformation.

Carlton Wilkinson – Wilkinson Arts

The Blackamoor, Black Jockey, and the Scarecrow 

This presentation makes comparisons with various iconographies in traditional cultures, such as, the Blackamoor statues in Florence, Italy to the Black Jockey figures that "adorn" the front yards of southern homes in the United States. What is the function of these types of symbols, which could be addressed alongside the Scarecrow figure that sits in the middle of American cornfields? Are they symbols of protection from outside forces and/or items of empowerment, i.e., protection and privilege? Or are they merely greeting symbols that represent the ideology of its caregiver/owner? It is my goal to dissect the meanings of these and other iconography from ancient to modern day cultures.

Robert Holmes – New York University Africa House Advisory Board

Naked in the Palace

The paper is an analytical interpretation of a photograph by Lyle Ashton Harris, "Untitled, Blackamoor Study #7" (2015), in which a frontally naked Black man stands at the top of a balustrade of a grand palazzo in the presence of a magnificent female Blackamoor bust whose theoretical gaze rests upon him. The paper discusses the manner in which this audacious presence of a current day Black male figure in this context relates to the former perception of Black people in Italy and Europe and the manner in which that perception may affect the present issue of Black immigration into European countries. 

Mônica Cardim – Photographer

Blackness and Whiteness: Black Bodies in Racial Concepts

The proposal “Blackness and Whiteness: black bodies in racial concepts” aims to present some results of my theoretical and practical studies on the relationship between identity and power in ethnographic portraits of Afrodescendant people produced by European photographers in nineteenth century Brazil. In this article we will discuss aspects that characterize, visually and theoretically, the concepts of Blackness and Whiteness in twenty-one century Brazil, from an afrodiasporic approach on the hierarchical racialization of humanity, consolidated in the nineteenth century. It is the theoretical production in dialogue with the creation of a photographic essay on the possibilities of representation that materialize what it is to be black or white in contemporary Brazilian society. For this we start from the theoretical assumption that the photographic picture can be both a resource of domination, associated with the idea of differentiation, as well as resistance, identity construction or insertion into social groups.

Panel 13 Identities

10:45AM - 12:15PM Palazzo Sant'Elia


Panel 13: Identities 

Moderator: Kathryn Lachman – University of Massachusetts Amherst


Fabio La Mantia – University of Enna "Kore"

The Metamorphosis of Myth. Rituals and Sincretism in the Work of Wole Soyinka and Ola Rotimi 

The aim of this paper is to compare two nigerian dramatic rewritings: Wole Soyinka’s Bacchae of Euripides: A Communion Rite from Euripides ’Bacchae and Ola Rotimi’s The Gods Are Not To Blame from Sophocles’ Oedipus King. This analysis which identifies the similarities and the inconsistencies between the ancient Greek myths and gods and the Yoruba cosmogony and rituals, will focus on the idea of drama as an ideal medium for social and political expression within a postcolonial space (Wetmore, McDonald, Van Weyenberg). The two dramatic texts, indeed, deconstruct the respective classical prototypes, transcending the most obvious philosophical (the inexhaustible search for identity, Nietzsche), religious (the inevitability of τύχη, the divine possession that generates devastation) and psychoanalytic exegesis (the Oedipus complex, the theme of madness), in order to dispel or at least weaken the white mythology of colonial superiority through the black mythology of the colonized. The result is a syncretic theatre.

Anna Tedesco – University of Palermo 

Staging Othello at the Opera in 19th century

In September 2015, the Metropolitan Opera House decided to break a long-lived tradition: to cast a white tenor for the title role in Verdi’s Otello and turn him into a black man through the make-up. In the USA, where blackface had a sad, long history, this decision arose discussion in the newspapers and social networks. The question if Opera was more conservative than Theater or Cinema was also asked. In fact, it was a good occasion to reconsider the relation between Opera theater, its public and American society. But what happened at the Opera in 19th-Century Europe? How was the character of Othello acted and staged? How was the blackness of Othello represented and perceived by 19th-Century Opera-goers? And was Rossini’s Othello (1816) staged as Verdi’s (1887)? I will discuss the images and reviews related to the first stagings of both operas and reflect on what this tell us about contemporary Italy. 

Virginia Monteforte – University of Malta

Rima Project: Searching for an Indeterminate Definition 

‘Rima’ is a Maltese word with a double meaning. It refers to the rhyme in a poem, but also the wave made by a boat on the surface of the sea. It is a word that implies, always-already, a movement, a connection, a return. The word was chosen as the name for an anthropological and artistic project -- later to also become an association -- set up in Malta a few years ago, with the aim of exploring, through various languages and modes of collaboration, the process of displacement, and the many discourses which produce migration and migrants. In this presentation I will delve into some of its past and ongoing initiatives (workshops, performances, film festivals, publications and exhibitions) involved on the ground in the deconstruction of a preconceived imaginary about migration and exile, by stressing in particular the search for various practices of resistance put into practice by the subjects.

Lorgia Garcia-Pena & Medhin Paolos – Harvard University 

Mind the Gap: Immigrant Stories and Archival Justice

Mind the Gap is concerned with how race, immigration, sex and gender intersect in the production of citizens in this new millennium and how in turn, these citizens make sense of these labels through transnational networks (political, familial, social) in order to assert belonging to particular communities. Some of the questions Mind the Gap asks and answers are: What are the socio-political implications of a person who self-identifies or is labeledas an immigrant and as a racialized minority (black, Latino/a, Asian, Arab)? What kind of nexus, experiences and histories are summoned redefined and re-articulated in this particular identitarian duality? And how do these experiences and sociopolitical links play out on a transnational platform? Mind The Gap sets out to answer these questions through a transnational investigation that links two racialized immigrant communities (Italy, the Dominican Republic, Mexico and U.S.), thus challenging the geopolitical boundaries that persistently produce race and immigration as local and mutually exclusive experiences. 


Panel 14 Framing Art, Artists and Fashion

12:30PM - 2:00PM Museo delle Marionette


Panel 14: Framing Art, Artists and Fashion 

Moderator: Kalia Brooks Nelson – New York University


Justin Randolph Thompson – NYU Florence

Re-Tribalized Context: A Global Village with Localized Ghettoes 

Throughout his career Marshall McLuhan spoke of the “re-tribalisation” of society united in a “Global Village” created by the interconnectivity of new media. This paper draws upon 10 years of interviews with African Diasporic artists as a means for examining cultural classification and the employment of race as a contextual carrier in the legibility of Art. Drawing upon the media theories of Marshall McLuhan restructured to critically examine the presumed uniformity of Blackness as a trans-national medium, I intend to employ ideas of “re-tribalisation” and the isolation of the “Global Village” to deconstruct the flattening annihilation of the capacity of art by African and African Diasporic peoples to deliver a range of content as diverse as its creators.

Sonya Clark – Amherst College 

Text(ures): Black Hair as Music, Text, and Index in the Artwork of Sonya Clark From musical timbre to encoded glyph, this presentation offers new ways Black hair as a material, substance, and symbol re-signifies identity in a variety of multisensorial art projects. The research will include a variety of sculptures in which human hair is used as synecdoche for the African presence, power, and agency. There will be a discussion of “Sounding the Ancestors”, a musical recording of jazz violinist, Regina Carter, playing anthems on bows re-haired with a dreadlock to mark the timbre of DNA. Examples will show how hair texture becomes a text itself. The audience will be presented with a newly developed glyph created from the curl pattern of African hair as a key to decode the Roman alphabet.

Enrica Picarelli – Independent Researcher 

A Counter-Aesthetic of the "Migration Crisis": the Afrosartorialists

In 2016 the Nigerian designer Walé Oyéjidé showcased his fashion brand Ikiré Jones at the Pitti Uomo exhibition in Florence with asylum seekers from West Africa walking the catwalk in an attempt to show migrants as a “resource”. Oyéjidé created a counter-aesthetic of the black body in movement that brings issue of surface, presentation, visibility, and transparency to bear on how we image the African diaspora. I explore the creative youngpreneurs, or Afrosartorialists of the “New Africa” movement, examining how they engage with personal experiences of multiple belonging, dislocation, and self-affirmation in light of the current migration crisis. I will examine their use of photosharing platforms to mobilise style (a term that interprets dress preferences through the individuality of the wearer) and address issues regarding cultural clash/exchange and self-expression. My case studies are the queer Sierra Leonean, UK-based stylist Ibrahim Kamara and the Nigeria-Italian textile designer Diana Ejaita, founder of the fashion brand WearYourMask. 

Alexander Newman – San Francisco Art Institute

Rachel Newman – Center for Advanced Studies in the Visual Arts, National Gallery of Art 

In Rapture: Reconciling History Through Photographic Portraiture

The work of In Rapture, centers on photographic portraiture of people of color, created with an awareness of photographic visual strategies used in maintaining colonial modes of power. These modes, which center on the body, reify race as a biological or scientific reality thus erasing the complexities of a lived existence. We consider the parallels between the placement of people of color as inviable subjects for depicting divinity within the Western art historical canon, and how the “divinity” of pastoral settings in photography has historically been a space devoid of non-ethnographic representations of people of color. The images in “Melanogenesis”, a part of our “Divinities” series, draw inspiration in terms of framing, subject positioning and lighting, from renaissance paintings. We use this visual style of imaging the divine; the golden halos, the reflection of these tones in the natural setting; to create a queer, afro-futurist recreation of renaissance Christian iconography. 

Shani Jamila – Artist

All Around The World The Same Song 

I would like to engage the audience in a discussion about the work I’m exhibiting in the ReSignifications exhibition for the European Nomadic Biennial MANIFESTA 12. By creating surrealistic figurative collages, which also incorporate elements of nature, I aim to catalyze conversations about how syncretic (collective and individual) identities are formed in a globalizing world.


Panel 15 Memory, Memorials and History

12:30PM - 2:00PM Palazzo Sant'Elia


Panel 15: Memory, Memorials and History 

Moderator: Paulette Young – Cultural Anthropologist, Independent Scholar


Vera Grant – Harvard University

Visual Haptics: Posters, Medals, and Photographs circa World War I 

This paper interrogates the meaning of race and representation in the amplified atmosphere of war and its aftermath. It illuminates the impact of various visual propaganda strategies upon national reconciliations after World War I. I consider of a series of racialized propaganda posters and racist medallic productions –along with countering strategies of resistance, restaging and the reclaiming of humanity within the European theater of war. The United States military regime sought to control perceptions of African Americans in Europe, and these attempts brushed up against a gamut of European national black belongings and shifting colonial policies in the metropole. Intensified tactical approaches may be found in the production of specific visual cultural objects. Simultaneously, black soldiers, both African American and African, resisted the impact of the distribution of racialized and racist propaganda by employing counter strategies of mimicry and parody.

Omari Ra - Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts 

Visual Memory: Reading Pan-Africanism

Commutative or memorial portraits are sometimes the most challenging of all public representations. Maya Lin’s Viet Nam memorial was dubbed a “Black rock of shame” With almost 200 years of emancipation from enslavement Jamaicans still struggles with notions of black identity and representations. Almost all public memorial or commemorative statues or painting have met with violent oppositions, from Edna Manley’s statue of Paul Bogle (1965) to Raymond Watson’s (2017) Marcus Garvey”. Perhaps it is no wonder why Eretria choose a pair of sandals to commemorate its independence. Commemoration and Memorial portraitures are very important to a people, especially where that people is challenged by vestiges of erosive colonial strictures. This paper looks at the black commemorative and memorial portraits in Jamaica from a Pan African stand points. It questions hegemonic control of history, geopolitics and iconographies, the necessary contexts for realistic self-imaging. 

Sylvie Fortin – Independent Curator and Scholar

Missing Member: Transplant Surgery, Hospitality and Art 

With their posthumous 'Miracle of the Black Leg', Saints Cosmas and Damian are often credited with the invention of transplant surgery. Originating in Italy in the 13th Century, depictions of these (twin, Syrian, 3rd-century Christian martyrs) saints' intervention--saving a white male patient by transplanting a deceased black man's leg--spread across Europe, the Americas and beyond. My experimental, hospitality-inflected reading of the artworks and their two depicted moments/processes/spaces--amputation and transplant--will connect the 'Miracle of the Black Leg" to the phantom limb and the religious relic while tracing the contemporary legacy of its extractive intersection of race, class, religion and value.

Belinda Zhawi – BORN: FREE 

Sound Portrait of a Freedom Warrior: Memorialising Winnie Madikizela-Mandela

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela passed away on 02/04/2018 at the age of 81. She was a widely known as an activist who brought Mandela’s plight to the rest of the world. This paper would aim to celebrate the life of Winnie Mandela outside the narrative of her role as just a wife. This paper would aim to explore and highlight other aspects of this figure’s life in a way that acknowledges her as individual. The presentation would be 20 minutes long & all poetry used would be new writing in response to Winnie Mandela’s past speeches & interviews. It will incorporate archived texts from interviews, marches and documentaries to examine her journey through motherhood, activism & disownment. 

Cecilio M. Cooper – Northwestern University

The Miracle of the Black Leg: Blackness, Amputation, and Production of Medical Knowledge 

“Where can we get flesh to fill in where we cut away the rotted leg?” queries one twin saint to another. Saints Cosmas and Damian amputated an Ethiopian’s limb and transplanted it onto a Roman church official to replace his cancerous appendage. The siblings are venerated as santi medici or patron saints of medicine, surgery, and pharmacy for performing this miraculous surgery. Cosimo Medici, the patriarch of the Medici dynasty, was Cosmas’ namesake. He commissioned the Florentine Fra Angelico to paint a scene of their martyrdom and the Miracle of the Black Leg (1439-1442). Sequentially presenting scenes of saints’ lives, Matteo di Pacino’s predella panels from Rinuccini Chapel in Florence are believed to be the earliest visual depictions of the MoBL (1370-75). The MoBL not only anticipates medical advancements though the lens of miraculous healings but also exemplifies how European somatic integrity is visualized as constituted through African corporeal loss.

Liz Andrews - George Mason University and LACMA 

An Electoral Body: #Obama Twitter Images on Election Day 2008

Twitter was a new technology in 2008, when the USA elected Barack Obama 44th President. The Obama campaign successfully reached many young people and early adopters of technology through Twitter. In this paper, I look at Tweets with the hashtag #Obama and posted on November 4, 2008. Obama’s name was everywhere: in person, online, and on Twitter, hashtagged by supporters and detractors alike. I focus on twelve Tweets with images that depict the man who would become the first #POTUS and first black man to hold the office. I examine the images for their messages and larger meanings in the context of the nation and election. The text of the Tweets serves as captions, often conveying a strong sentiment. Through election day Tweets, I provide a glimpse into a historic global moment that unfolded in images on newspaper, magazines, televisions, computers and smart phones. 


Day 3 GNV Atlas

Panel 16 The Black Mediterranean

9:00AM - 10:30AM GNV Atlas

Panel 16: The Black Mediterranean

Moderator: Ella Shohat – New York University 


Paul Gilroy – King’s College London 

Humanism at Sea

Iain Chambers – University of Naples, "Orientale" 

Fluid archives: Thinking with the Diver

This year is the fiftieth anniversary of the discovery of the Tomb of the Diver amongst the ruins of the Greek colony at Paestum. Drawing on a project presently being developed by Gabriel Zuchtriegel (the Director of the Paestum Museum) and the spatial historian, poet and artist Paul Carter to celebrate the event, I will follow the arc of this dark male figure to sound the archives of the Afro-Asian-European matrix of the Mediterranean. Insisting, via the return of this past, on the critical honesty of the anachronism that cuts up sequential chronology for another historical and geographical assemblage, I will seek to propose the resonances of colonialism, migration and creolisation that echo across the troughs of time proposing diverse configurations of past, present and potential futures. 

Mauro Pala – University of Cagliari

Edward Said’s Mediterranean: A Sea of Change 

Said’s scholarly and journalistic work changed the overall perception of the Mediterranean because, for the first time in Western academia, it questioned the historical and cultural relationship between Europe, Northern Africa (Egypt in particular), and the Middle East, dismissing the previous Orientalist vision of the Mediterranean as an ahistorical and Idyllic cradle of world civilization. This contribution analyses how Said saturates the Mediterranean with methodological questions as to the production of images, commonplaces and discourses which prompted the Western public opinion to support recurrent warfare and increasingly divisive politics in the area. It will also stress, however, how he presented evidence of fresh movements which anticipated the Arabic Spring revolutions with momentous changes in gender relationships and performative modes of representations, examples of the various Mediterranean cultures into new forms of cooperative being- in- the world.


Panel 17 Burning it

10:45AM - 12:15PM GNV Atlas

Panel 17: Burning It

Moderator: Nouri Gana – UCLA 


Angela Caponnetto – Rainews24 – RAI TV 

Migrant News: History Telling of an Italian Reporter

How can a TV journalist tell migratory flows without falling into repetition and rhetoric? How can she give correct information? For several years I have reported migratory flows through Italy for RAInews24, the all-news channel of RAI, Italy's largest state-run TV network. The first time I reported a large landing of migrants was in 2002, when about a thousand Kurds arrived in Italy. Thousands of strangers have landed in southern Italy since those days, filmed by international cameras. We journalists were asked to cover the stories of people who became numbers in our reports. It's been very uncomfortable. So in the last 5 years, I have tried to report a story in evolution, sometimes in involution but still in movement. Being at the landings and merely counting numbers was no longer possible. That kind of narrative was dangerous for those who left and for those who see these people arrive. 

Dagmawi Yimer – Film maker, Archives of Migrants Memory (AMM)

Asmat – Names 

In 2013 after the 3°October shipwreck, for the first time, the victims were identified. one of the few occasions in which the survivals furnished the names of 368 girls and boys that drowned near the island of Lampedusa. For years these names, and their load of flesh and blood, have left their birthplaces, going far from home, composing something like a written message, a message which has reached the threshold of the Western world. These names have defied manmade boundaries and laws, have disturbed and challenged African and European governments. The film’s images give space to these names without bodies. They are meaningful names although it might be difficult for us to grasp their meaning. It is necessary for us to count them all, name each and every one to make us aware of how many names lost their bodies on one single day, in the Mediterranean Sea.

Bhakti Shringarpure – University of Connecticut 

Foregrounding Fragments: Warscapes Anthology Focuses on Migrations across the Mediterranean

Warscapes magazine was founded as an online initiative and has recently debuted its first work in print titled Mediterranean. The title subverts and defies traditional framings of the vast material, political and cultural discourses that the term evokes. Through the intimacy and immediacy of fiction, poetry, photography and reportage, the volume Mediterranean explores turbulent journeys and experiences of migrants and refugees with a particular focus on East Africa. Through the visual and the textual, Mediterranean emphasizes an aesthetic of fragmentedness, dislocation and rupture, and foregrounds the difficulty of complete, linear narratives when it comes to the experience of migration. Designed as a pedagogical tool and research tool, it also provides an in-depth starter syllabus to encourage informed conversations and discussions about the subject. 

Timothy Raeymaekers – University of Zurich

Permeating Territories: The Mediterranean Threshold and Black African Transformations 

If we accept that the Mediterranean is increasingly becoming a middle passage –representing not only a liquid territorial border, but an actual rupture point that generates an alternative spatio-temporality– then what kind of transformation shall we think this passage is producing? The material presented here builds on 5 years of research among im-|migrant African communities in North and South Italy. As a geographer engaging with the relationship between politics, space and identity, I deal with the question of what kinds of –cultural and other– frictions the increasingly diffuse government of African im-|migrant rights is producing at the heart of the postcolonial nation-state, with a special focus on the territorial effects of the so-called ‘refugee crisis’. Adopting an explicitly marginal perspective, I explore the expanding grey zone this crisis is producing, and within which the rights of non-|citizens are actively mediated through the threshold of, often conflicting, political institutions.