St. Benedict of Palermo (1526-1589) © Omar Victor Diop
ReSignifications: The Black Mediterranean
City of Palermo − 2018 Italy's Capital of Culture
University of Palermo, 7 - 9 June 2018
ReSignifications: The Black Mediterranean joins a series of international conversations, including Black Portraitures, breaking new ground in the fields of African and African Diasporic art, literature, cultural theory, history, and political practice. Scholars, writers, artists, and cultural activists from around the world will gather in the heart of the Mediterranean to reason together about issues of representation, migration, diaspora, slave-trade, border, mobility, citizenship, and human rights. We will discuss from a variety of approaches the historically and contemporary ways in which black voices have been silenced and black bodies have been ambiguously imagined in Western-dominated global culture. We will investigate why these questions are relevant to what is happening today in the Mediterranean, a crucial site of the African diaspora since the classic era.
Sicily lies at the center of the Mediterranean, where Africa and Europe encounter. Historically considered part of either one of the two continents, depending on the domination of the moment, the island has always functioned as a bridge. Its capital city Palermo, world-renowned for its diverse artistic and cultural heritage, is today one of the major ports of refuge for the countless migrants who arrive in Europe in flocks from the African shores. Designated Italy's 2018 Capital City of Culture, on June 7-9 Palermo will become a resonant chamber of the million visual, oral, written, performed stories of the African diaspora.
At the backdrop to the conference will be the exhibition ReSignifications: European Blackamoors, Africana Readings, with the connected Wole Soyinka: Antiquities Across Times and Place. Collateral events of the MANIFESTA European Biennial of Contemporary Art, the exhibits will display the works of an array of international artists and the African art collection of Nigerian Nobel Prize for Literature Wole Soyinka, who will open the conference.