20 May 2022 09:00 - 18:15 The Long Room, Gonville and Caius College, CB2 1TA/Online


A colloquium convened by the CIRN Intesa Sanpaolo Fellow 2021-22, Dr Vera-Simone Schulz. Free registration has now opened. This is a hybrid event with the option to attend in person or online. Please select your tickets accordingly, via Eventbrite or the registration link on this page.

Providing a platform for dialogue at the crossroads between academia and the arts, the symposium will focus on transcultural entanglements, notions of connectivity and resistance, and issues of proximity and distance between the Apennine peninsula, the Horn of Africa, North Africa and West Central Africa with case studies from the early middle ages until today. Invited speakers from various disciplines and contemporary artists will interrogate the materiality of past and present encounters between the Black Mediterranean and the Black Atlantic, and shed new light on narratives and counter-narratives, histories, and layers, providing new ways of discursive, horizontal ways of knowledge production. Engaging with multiple temporalities, the symposium will highlight complex intersections between the precolonial, colonial, and postcolonial period, and make an important contribution to the overcoming of traditional disciplinary and sub-disciplinary divides such as those between European, African and Islamic art histories and related fields. Investigating cultural production and complexifying stories of connectivity and resistance on empirical-historical, artistic and methodological levels, the symposium aims at sounding out the challenges and potentials of new approaches from decolonial perspectives, placing more emphasis on the Majority World, and connecting academic and artistic research across countries and continents.

Confirmed speakers:

  • Sammy Baloji (DRC/Belgium)
  • Flaminia Bartolini (SPC/CNR & British School at Rome)
  • Lucrezia Cippitelli (Accademia di Brera)
  • Deborah Dainese (University of East Anglia)
  • Gertrude Aba M Eyifa-Dzidzienyo (University of Ghana)
  • Alessandra Ferrini (University of the Arts London)
  • Caroline Goodson (University of Cambridge)
  • Samantha Kelly (Rutgers University)
  • Angelica Pesarini (University of Toronto)
  • Georges Senga (DRC/Netherlands)
  • Justin Randolph Thompson (The Recovery Plan)

Please email any enquiries to fellowships@crassh.cam.ac.uk.



Welcome and introduction
Vera-Simone Schulz (KHI Florence/University of Cambridge)


‘Negotiating the (in)visibility of colonial violence
Alessandra Ferrini (University of the Arts London)

‘Renegotiating the past at the ex colonial museum in Rome’
Flaminia Bartolini (ISPC/CNR & British School at Rome)

Chair: Vera-Simone Schulz (KHI Florence/University of Cambridge)




‘The complexities in restitution of Ghanaian cultural material’
Gertrude Aba M Eyifa-Dzidzienyo (University of Ghana)

‘Unpacking indigenous identities: a case study from the ‘Africa Section’ of the 1950 World Exhibition of Sacred Art held at the Vatican’
Deborah Dainese (University of East Anglia)

“How Does a Little Pagan Hunter Become a Catholic Priest”
Georges Senga (DRC / Netherlands)

Chair: Bronwen Everill (University of Cambridge)




‘K(C)ongo: fragments of interlaced dialogues’
Sammy Baloji (DRC /Belgium)

‘Subversive classifications’
Lucrezia Cippitelli (Accademia di Brera)

Chair: Melissa Calaresu (University of Cambridge)




‘Slavery in early medieval north Africa and Italy’
Caroline Goodson (University of Cambridge)

‘Ethiopian Orthodox in 16th-century Europe: promulgating knowledge, contesting critics’
Samantha Kelly (Rutgers University)

Chair: Mary Laven (University of Cambridge)




‘Preparing the recovery plan: archival resistance and corrective measures’
Justin Randolph Thompson (The Recovery Plan)

‘The Black Mediterranean: resistance and counter memories
Angelica Pesarini (University of Toronto)

Chair: Robert Gordon (University of Cambridge)

Speakers' Biographies

Sammy Baloji is a contemporary artist and photographer from the Democratic Republic of Congo, based between Lubumbashi and Brussels. Since 2019 he has also been conducting PhD research in art at St Lucas Antwerpen on Contemporary Kasala and Lukasa: Towards a Reconfiguration of Identity and Geopolitics. Baloji has participated in several major international biennales including Documenta 14 and Venice Biennial (2015). He received numerous awards including a residency at the Villa Medici, the Prix OIF of Dak’Art Biennale, a Robert Gardner Fellowship at Peabody Museum/Harvard University, a Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship and Rolex Mentor and Protégé Initiative with Mentor Olafur Eliasson, among many other residencies and awards. He has had solo exhibitions at Palais de Beaux-Arts, Paris, Lund Konsthall, Aarhus Kunsthal, Le Point du Jour, Cherbourg, Framer Framed, Amsterdam, Musée du quai Branly, Paris, MuZee, Oostende, Belgium, the Royal Museum for Central Africa, Tervuren, the Museum for African Art, NY, among others. Currently on view is his solo exhibition at Palazzo Pitti in the Uffizi in Florence K(C)ongo: Fragments of Interlaced Dialogues: Subversive Classifications.

Flaminia Bartolini is a classical archaeologist specialized in heritage of the dictatorship. She is a Leverhulme Trust Fellow based at the CNR-ISPC in Rome and a Research Fellow at the British School in Rome. A member of the Cambridge Heritage Research Centre, she holds a PhD in archaeology from the University of Cambridge with a doctoral thesis on Fascist Heritage and Italian Renegotiation of the Dictatorial Past. She received fellowships from the German Historical Institute in Rome and ICCROM, is an affiliated scholar at the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, an external advisor to the scientific committee of the future Documentation Centre for the History of Fascism in Italy, and a member of the Scientific Committee at ICOMOS for the protection of 20th Century Heritage. Her research centers on fascist material legacies, fascist uses of the past, museums and difficult collections, conflicting memories and post-colonial legacies. She is the author of numerous articles on fascist heritage in Italy and editor of Heritage in the Making: Dealing with the Legacies of Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany (Archaeopress, 2021).

Lucrezia Cippitelli is professor of aesthetics at Brera Academy of Fine Arts in Milan. Holding a PhD in art history from La Sapienza University and Cornell University, she is the author of Eurocentrismo (Bulzoni, 2013), Connecting La Havana (Digicult Publisher, 2011), and Alamar Express Lab (Gangemi Editore, 2017), among other publications. Her numerous activities include the setting up of a Media Lab in Havana (Alamar Express Lab, with Omni Zonafranca, Cuba, and Inventati, Italy), a Master in Visual Arts at Alle School of Arts and Design of Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia, and a lab for site-specific artistic production in Khartoum (Khartoum Art Lab, Sudan). She is currently artistic director of Atelier Picha, the long-term, site-specific educational program of Picha, the artist lead organization which runs Lubumbashi Biennale (Democratic Republic of Congo). She is the curator of George Senga’s exhibition “How Does a Little Pagan Hunter Become a Catholic Priest” at the Recovery Plan in Florence and at the Museo delle Civiltà in Rome (upcoming in October this year). And together with Justin Thompson, she is the curator of Sammy Baloji’s current exhibition at Palazzo Pitti in the Uffizi in Florence K(C)ongo: Fragments of Interlaced Dialogues: Subversive Classifications.

Deborah Dainese is an ARCH CHASE-funded PhD candidate at the Sainsbury Research Unit for the Arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas (Norwich, UK). In her doctoral thesis, through the analysis of multiple sources, she is reconstructing the biography of the Congolese sculptor Gabriel Mashitolo mwata Zola, who lived and worked in the Bandundu region (DRC) during the mid-20th century. She is also particularly interested in Italian missionary collections and exhibitions, indigenous agency and representation.

Gertrude Eyifa-Dzidzienyo is senior lecturer in the department of archaeology and heritage studies at the University of Ghana. In 2017 she completed her PhD thesis on Archaeology and Heritage Management Practices in Ghana: Assessment of Tengzug Heritage Preservation and Development as the first Ghanaian woman to hold a PhD in archaeology. Her research centers on the interrelationship between archaeological findings and gender subjects, particularly women in Ghana, a topic on which she has published several articles in the Ethnographisch-Archaeologische Zeitschrift and the West African Journal of Archaeology, among other journals. Together with Samuel N. Nkumbaan, shhe is also the author of “Looted and Illegally Acquired African Objects in European Museums: Issues of Restitution and Repatriation in Ghana”, which was published in the Contemporary Journal of African Studies in 2020.

Alessandra Ferrini is a London-based artist, researcher, and educator, a PhD candidate at the University of the Arts London and Research Fellow at the British School at Rome. She is one of the finalists of the Maxxi Bvlgari Prize 2022 and was the recipient of the 2017 London Film Festival’s Experimenta Pitch Award. She has exhibited and published internationally and her work features in Everything Passes Except the Past – Decolonizing Ethnographic Museums, Film Archives and Public Space edited by Jana Haeckel for Sternberg Press (2021), as well as Forms of Desire – Venice, Zineb Sedira’s publication for the French Pavillion at the 59th Venice Biennale (2022).

Caroline Goodson is a senior lecturer in early medieval history and fellow of King’s College at the University of Cambridge. She received her PhD at Columbia University, was a member of the department of history, classics, and archaeology at Birkbeck College, University of London, before joining the faculty of History of the University of Cambridge in 2017. She has been awarded numerous fellowships, including from the Royal Historical Society, the Società degli Archeologi Medievisti italiani, the Leverhulme Trust, the American Academy in Rome and the Associazione internazionale di archeologia classica. Dr. Goodson is the author of The Rome of Pope Paschal I (817-824): Papal Power, Urban Renovation, Church Rebuilding and Relic Translation and the editor of Cities, Texts and Social Networks, 400-1500: Experiences and Perceptions of Medieval Urban Space, among numerous other publications. Her research focuses on the rise of early medieval polities in the Western Mediterranean, North Africa and in particular Italy between c. 500 and c. 1100 and on the nature of power in this part of the early medieval world.

Samantha Kelly is Professor of History at Rutgers University. She holds a PhD from Northwestern University, is a specialist of medieval Italian history and of Ethiopian-European relations to the mid-sixteenth century. Her publications include the monograph The New Solomon: Robert of Anjou (1309-1343) and Fourteenth-Century Kingship, numerous articles on Ethiopian-European relations, and she is editor of the Companion to Medieval Ethiopia and Eritrea, that came out with Brill in 2020 and won the African Studies Review Prize for the Best Africa-focused Anthology or Edited Collection in 2021. Samantha Kelly is studying the interface of Ethiopian Orthodox and Catholic culture in 16th-century Italy through an analysis of the lives, communal experience, scholarly initiatives, and Catholic patronage of the members of the Ethiopian pilgrim hostel/monastery of Santo Stefano in Rome. Her research has been supported by the Institute of Advanced Studies in Princeton, the Villa I Tatti, the American Academy in Rme, the Istituto Italiano di Studi Storici (Naples), the École française de Rome and the American Council of Learned Societies, among others.

Angelica Pesarini is a sociologist and assistant professor in race and cultural studies /race and diaspora and Italian studies at the University of Toronto and works on the intersections of race, gender, citizenship and identity in Italy. She earned her PhD in 2015 from the University of Leeds with a dissertation on Colour Strategies: Negotiations of Black Mixed Race Women’s Identities in Colonial and Post-Colonial Italy, and has taught courses in Gender, Race and Sexuality at Lancaster University and on Race and Immigration in Italy at New York University’s Florence Campus before joining the University of Toronto. She is the author of numerous publication on issues of race in Italy, both in English and Italian, and is member of the Black Mediterranean Collective which just published The Black Mediterranean: Bodies, Borders, and Citizenship (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2021), a study rethinking the contemporary migration crisis in the Central Mediterranean.

Georges Senga is a contemporary artist and photographer from Lubumbashi, based between the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Netherlands. He develops his photographic work around history and the stories revealed in memory, identity and heritage, shedding light on our actions and the present. Senga’s work has been presented in solo and group exhibitions at Lubumbashi Biennale, Asbl Dialogues, Bamako Biennale, Addis Fotofest, Kampala Biennale, Kigali PhotoFest, and the Jean Cocteau cultural centre in 2020, United Nations, among others. He won the Thamie Mnyele Award, DemoCrasee, Bamako Biennale, CAP PRIZE – International Prize for Contemporary African Photography of the IAF Basel, SADC Research Residency Prohelveltia, among other awards. During a residency at Villa Medici in Rome he worked on the project Comment un petit chasseur noir Païen devient prêtre Catholique (How a small black pagan hunter becomes a Catholic priest), which he exhibited in a group exhibition at Villa Medici and in a solo exhibition at the Recovery Plan and which will result in a comprehensive final exhibition at the Museo delle Civiltà in Rome in October 2022.

Justin Randolph Thompson is a new media artist, cultural facilitator, educator and director of The Recovery Plan. Living between Italy and the US since 1999, Thompson is co-founder and director of Black History Month Florence, a multi-faceted exploration of African and African Diasporic cultures in the context of Italy founded in 2016. Having realized, coordinated, curated, facilitated and promoted over 300 events and with 8 ongoing research platforms, the initiative has been reframed as a Black cultural center called The Recovery Plan. Thompson is a recipient of a 2022 Creative Capital Award, a 2020 Italian Council Research Fellowship, a Louis Comfort Tiffany Award, a Franklin Furnace Fund Award, a Visual Artist Grant from the Fundacion Marcelino Botin and an Emerging Artist Fellowship from Socrates Sculpture Park amongst others. His work and performances have been exhibited widely in institutions including The Whitney Museum of American Art, the Centro de Arte Reina Sofia and The American Academy in Rome and are part of numerous collections including The Studio Museum in Harlem, and the Museo MADRE.


Talk Abstracts

Sammy Baloji: K(C)ongo: Fragments of Interlaced Dialogues

The recently opened site-specific exhibition conceived for Gallerie degli Uffizi (Florence) is a new and extended chapter of an ongoing dialogue of Sammy Baloji and a series of artworks from the Kingdom of Kongo, which arrived in Europe between the XVI and XVII centuries. The exhibition showcases Baloji’s artworks, interweaved with archive documents and Kongo artefacts which are part of the collections of different museums in Europe and the West. Baloji’s research excavates the complexity of a path of interlaced historical moments and objects which addresses the pre-modern relationship and horizontal exchanges between Africa and Europe.

Lucrezia Cippitelli: Subversive Classifications

Specimen and artworks from the Kingdom of Kongo, which arrived in Europe during the Renaissance, defy the modern classifications of “exotic” or “ethnographic” which emerged in the following centuries and that have long been ascribed to them. This elusion marks them as subversive, for their capacity of redefining a categorization that expanded with the Transatlantic Slave Trade and the Scramble for Africa of the late XIX c. Contemporary narrations and cultural values still wrestle with the impact of these very classifications, based upon Eurocentric and colonial values.

Deborah Dainese: Unpacking Indigenous Identities: a Case Study from the ‘Africa Section’ of the 1950 World Exhibition of Sacred Art held at the Vatican

During the middle decades of the 20th century, in a context of transition from European colonialism to political independence across Africa, new forms of patronage began emerging that sought to support African artistic traditions. The Papacy, among the patrons, promoted in the ‘countries of mission’ missionary-sponsored art workshops based on existing cultural traditions which were adapted to the provision of church furnishings, vestments, paintings and sculptures. In the 1940s, in view of the Jubilee to be held in 1950, Archbishop Celso Costanini, on behalf of Pope Pius XII, began requesting to the heads of artisanal workshops examples of their artistic productions. The artworks were intended to be exhibited during the 1950 World Exhibition of Christian Art, one of the most important events organised on the occasion of the Holy Year. Mostly framed in a post-World War II context, this paper provides an overview on the ‘Africa section’, engaging with the role the Papacy played in framing African material culture within a specific Catholic perspective. Furthermore, through the analysis of Mashitolo mwata Zola’s sculptures which were displayed during the exhibition, it aims to shed light on African artists’ biographies which have remained for long untold.

Alessandra Ferrini: Negotiating the (In)Visibility of Colonial Violence

Through the analysis of visual and material culture that has been subject to either manipulation or obfuscation, this presentation will reflect on the carefully orchestrated politics of visibility and invisibility that shape the memory of colonial violence in Italy. Specifically, it will consider how to make public, in the present, the memory of the genocide in Libya, by considering individual practices of resistance against the ‘iconographic silence’ (Alessandro Volterra) that was imposed by the Fascist government. Namely, Rodolfo Graziani’s directive forbidding the documentation of the genocide. The presentation will revolve around my exhibition Unruly Connections, presented at ar/ge kunst (Bozen) in 2022, which hosts Dr Uoldelul Chelati Dirar’s ongoing translation from Tigrinya to Italian of La Recluta (The Conscript, 1927), the anticolonial novel by Gebreyesus Hailu. More widely, the exhibition investigates the relations between the margins of (Italian) Empire, as well as around resistance through practices of writing against the erasure of the genocide in Eastern Libya.

Justin Randolph Thompson: Preparing the Recovery Plan: Archival Resistance and Corrective Measures

This talk engages the work and methodologies of The Recovery Plan, a Black cultural center inaugurated in Florence, Italy in 2019 and home to eight research platforms. Troubling the academic frame and consideration, typically associated with the archive, and grappling with the recovery of traces of Black history extending into antiquity on the Italian territory, this center is generative of templates and processes of socio-cultural recovery from consistent oversight and devaluing. Cyclical in their nature and open form, in their collective sharing, the platforms themselves provide new formats and narrations that resist the cultural shortcuts of overlooked or under-considered epistemologies, pushing beyond the corrective measures of heavily gated and policed canons.


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