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Geographies

(11 results)

Gaza

They could be two different images. The backdrop of one is prevalently yellow ochre, with three soldiers in full battle gear clambering diagonally up the steep, sandy incline.  In the other, a composite crowd of children, adolescents, men, and women wave their flags against a predominantly green, grassy background. Separating the two is a barbed wire fence. The photograph was taken Friday March 30 in Gaza, when 16 Palestinian demonstrators were killed and 1,400 wounded. On Saturday there were two more deaths, and the tally of the wounded is not known. A crowd of 30,000 had gathered along the fence that separates Gaza from the State of Israel. They threw stones and rudimentary incendiary devices against the border fence, where over 100 select Israeli Army snipers had been positioned. The Israeli Minister of Defense, Avigdor Lieberman, stated that orders were orders, and that if any of the demonstrators approached the fence, his soldiers had been given orders to fire. The inhabitants of the Gaza strip, many of whom are followers of Hamas, have lived segregated lives for years. The living conditions in the territory have been reported by journalists and writers, but it is hard...

Echoes of Pasts, Inscribing the Present

In an elegantly frescoed salon at New York University’s Florence estate, Villa La Pietra, stands an artifact of beauty, her light brown tunic adorned with brushes of gold fig leaves, a golden collar, and buttons and boots to match. An expansive smile is etched into her ebony face as her body strikes a semi genuflecting pose. Her outstretched arms beckon visitors with an invitation to be served: “give me your gloves, your scarves, your coats, they seem to say.” A similar sculpture but male, is positioned across the room from her. He is made in the likeness of an 18th century page.  With the stem of a horn or trumpet tucked under his right shoulder, this African-looking boy, resplendent in rich curls, and brown and gold heraldry, is perched on a descending platform in a posture of obeisance to observers.   These figures constitute a broad genre of Western European decorative art – furniture, sculptures, paintings, and tapestries – that portray African bodies in service, as domestic workers, soldiers, porters, and custodians of palatial properties. Known in common parlance as “Blackamoors,” models of this tradition in the Villa’s art collections date mostly...

Contemporary photography in Benin

Italian Version.   The first edition of the Mois de la Photographie, recently held at the Institut Français of Cotonou, has showcased the work of four Beninese and French photographers – Laeïla Adjovi, Léonce Agbodjelou, Jean-Jacques Moles, and Catherine Laurent – all focusing on contemporary Benin. The exhibition shed light on a little-known scenario, less established and thriving than that of other countries, such as neighboring Nigeria, but increasingly aware of its striking potential (as clearly emerges from the pictures showcased and other projects). Art and culture in Benin are significantly supported by the Institut Français, the French government agency for the promotion of French culture overseas , and Fondation Zinsou, a local foundation operating in the visual arts field and committed to broadening access to reading through a network of mini-libraries spread across the country.   Placed next to each other, the works of these four photographers – exhibited in Cotonou from January to March, 2016 – sketch out the image of a country caught between past and future, between the certainties of traditional community life and the challenges of individual freedom, between the...

Santu Mofokeng: A Silent Solitude

“A gift is the evidence of an act, a symbolic gesture that is at once free and obligatory,” writes Katia Anguelova, curator of AtWork Dakar 2012. “Considered in terms of a give-and-take relationship, the work of art can therefore be regarded as a gift or a representation of a gift.” This is the central idea of AtWork, the educational format created by lettera27 and Simon Njami. Its key element is a workshop during which participants produce a personalized notebook, which they can choose to donate to lettera27, thus becoming part of AtWork Community. The workshop that has recently taken place in Italy, in partnership with Fondazione Fotografia Modena, was entirely dedicated to the photographic image and was attended, among others, by the young Ivorian aspiring photographer Mohamed Keita. The notebooks produced during the workshop were displayed in an exhibition co-curated by the students at the Fondazione Fotografia Modena’s atelier in Via Giardini. Drawing on Foucault’s idea of heterotopy, Simon Njami chose “heterochrony” as the main theme of the workshop, describing it as “a break with real-time that introduces multiple time-spaces from which it is possible to reconsider...

Thinking for yourself and within yourself

On April 27th upon the invitation by Art Basel for Non-Profit Visual Arts Organizations, we have launched our first crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter to implement the sixth chapter of our itinerant educational artistic format AtWork. The campaign is aimed to fund AtWork Addis Ababa, consisting of: a 5-day workshop for young Ethiopian art students and creative talents led by international curator Simon Njami and an exhibition of the created artworks at Addis Foto Fest in December 2016. With your support, we can continue to offer AtWork experience to the students for free. Join our crowdfunding campaign on Art Basel Kickstarter and contribute to nourishing a new generation of creative thinkers that can build the future we are all longing for!     lettera27   On the occasion of the campaign’s launch we are publishing Simon Njami’s text that poetically describes the vision behind our educational approach.  Enjoy the reading and support our campaign here!   Thinking for yourself and within yourself   We, however, start from the beginning. We are poor, we have unlearned how to play. We have forgotten it, our hands have unlearned how to dabble. (Ernst Bloch)   What Ernst...

Asmarina: post colonial heritages

Italian Version   Asmarina, a 2015 documentary by Alan Maglio and Medhin Paolos, follows what they call “voices and images of a postcolonial heritage.” This beautiful documentary (with an absolutely riveting soundtrack) tells the story of Milan’s habesha community, integral to the Porta Venezia neighborhood since the mid-twentieth century. Weaving together the experiences and identities of those who have lived in Italy for generations with those of newly arrived refugees, Asmarina traces the complex networks of colonial legacies, transnational migrations, family ties, and diasporic politics. And through these stories, which can only be understood from a spatially extended and transhistorical perspective, it also forces a serious reconsideration of what we mean when we talk about “Italy” and “Italians.”   Still from Asmarina (2015).    Diasporic photography   Asmarina begins with a montage of photographs: a hand gently moving a magnifying glass over photo slides on a light table; an aging, black-and-white photo; a well-worn family album; crisp pages from the 1983 work of photojournalism Stranieri a Milano. Pictures are laid out on a table, ejected from a printer,...

The Nationless Pavilion

Political crisis of today is dictated by outdated nation state model of mapping the world. While all the other systems already spilled over with economy, art, science going global, nation state still draws the lines on the geographical map.   Political power and it’s redistribution is the heart of the issue. Advancement of human civilization, apart of providing technological leaps, also demanded more transparency and visibility from power. It has always been ‘catch and run’ game - with new strategies of mystification of political power into institutional forms of different kinds. Authority redistribution mechanisms always tend to appear impersonal as their function is to communicate idea of being ‘detached’ from the matter of defining good and bad, right and wrong. Ethical, moral and aesthetic judgment seem to appear to naked eye as something defined and proved by centuries of common societal work, where standards of normal are the result of careful, almost Darwinist selection of what is better for all. The mythology of this process was first supported by the narratives of religious dogma and power, while today it’s mostly relies on fear and ignorance. Ulrich Beck[1] rightly...

Why Africa? Changing the Narrative of the World

Why Africa?  For many years lettera27 has been dedicated to exploring various issues and debates around the African continent and with this new editorial column we would like to open a dialogue with cultural protagonists who deal with Africa. This will be the place to express opinions, tell their stories, stimulate the critical debate and suggest ideas to subvert multiple stereotypes surrounding this immense continent. With this new column we would like to open new perspectives: geographical, cultural, sociological. We would like the column to be a stimulus to learn, re-think, be inspired and share knowledge. For the opening piece we asked our partners, intellectuals and like-minded cultural protagonists from all over the world to answer one key question, which also happens to be the name of the column: "Why Africa?". We left the question deliberately open, inviting each of the contributors to give us their perspective on this topic from their own context. This first piece is a collection of some of the answers we received, which aims to open the conversation, pose more questions and hopefully find new answers.   Elena Korzhenevich, lettera27   Here the column's introduction...

Why Africa? Companions of Longitude

Why Africa?  For many years lettera27 has been dedicated to exploring various issues and debates around the African continent and with this new editorial column we would like to open a dialogue with cultural protagonists who deal with Africa. This will be the place to express opinions, tell their stories, stimulate the critical debate and suggest ideas to subvert multiple stereotypes surrounding this immense continent. With this new column we would like to open new perspectives: geographical, cultural, sociological. We would like the column to be a stimulus to learn, re-think, be inspired and share knowledge. For the opening piece we asked our partners, intellectuals and like-minded cultural protagonists from all over the world to answer one key question, which also happens to be the name of the column: "Why Africa?". We left the question deliberately open, inviting each of the contributors to give us their perspective on this topic from their own context. This first piece is a collection of some of the answers we received, which aims to open the conversation, pose more questions and hopefully find new answers.   Elena Korzhenevich, lettera27   Here the column's introduction...

The mother of all dances

When I discovered the question, I felt tempted to parody this American actor in this ad for some coffee and to answer: what else? I am the son of Lydia and Simon, two bassa heroes. I am the result of those two beings from a people who fought forcefully for their freedom; two children of Africa. So, what else? What else than that land of shadows and ghosts waiting to be revealed? What else than those millions of stories waiting to be told? Those stories I would read for my grandfather without really understanding, but captured by the mystery of books that could contain a whole world within their pages. Wars, marvels, people, love, hatred, all translated in the subtle magic of words. Conrad did not know to which extend he was right when he called this continent the heart of darkness. He did not know what darkness was in reality and found the right words out of a misunderstanding.   What do we say when we say Europe or Africa? People are always convinced to say something when they say “Africa”, which I admire, because I personally still don’t know what is Africa. I say Africa knowing that if we were looking for a definition that would perfectly define the complexity of the...

I'm Hungry for Landscape

1. Today I realized I was hungry for landscape In the old days if you went from one village to another, from Bisaccia to Andretta say, there was empty space between the two. Now the village is empty and the space in the middle has been filled. When I took a different route, this time from Andretta to Calitri, my impression was confirmed. The road is only partially paved and nobody travels there. The landscape looked much better and I devoured it in the sunlight. From every other point of view, that August day in Irpinia was the same winter as always.     2. A friend tells me it’s time to look up and see other places. I don’t obey. I stay here in this place and look down at the ground down and further down.     3. When land was not yet threatened we used to look elsewhere. But now, We must watch it carefully watch it every day. It’s life expectancy looks shorter even than ours.     4. Nobody can stay where they are exile is inevitable from every village every town. Residing here is a form of diplomacy The only possible place to live is inside poetry.