News / Arts & Entertainment

Anti-Immigrant Attacks Spur Florence Artists to Action

Anti-Immigrant Attacks Spur Florence Artists to Actioni
X
April 23, 2013 3:52 PM
The Italian city of Florence is known for its art and beauty. Its immigrant community is less well known. But following a series of racist attacks on African migrants in Florence, a group of artists is highlighting the contribution of foreigners to Florentine culture, past and present. Henry Ridgwell recently visited the city and reports for VOA.
Henry Ridgwell
The Italian city of Florence is known for its art and beauty. Its immigrant community is less well known. But following a series of attacks on African migrants in Florence, a group of artists is highlighting the contribution of foreigners to Florentine culture, past and present.
 
With its stunning architecture and countless galleries, Florence has long been at the heart of Western art.  It is the birthplace of the Renaissance, the flowering of Western artistic endeavor that began in the 14th century.
 
Now a group of artists is reflecting on what it means to be Florentine in the 21st century. They're re-creating Renaissance paintings using photographs of the city’s immigrants - complete with costumes, props and period hairstyles.
 
American-Lebanese photographer Mark Abouzeid, who lives in Florence, is one of the curators of the exhibition, titled "The New New World."
 
He says the project took a dramatic turn when a far-right gunman opened fire on Senegalese immigrants in December 2011, killing two people.
 
“We decided instead of being angry and saying everything that’s wrong, why don’t we for once just show everything that’s right, from the Renaissance when we reached out to culture, to create something so beautiful the world has never forgotten, to today when thanks to the immigrant community we have a cultural renaissance taking place again," he said. 
 
Florence resident Elhadji Sall - from Senegal - sits patiently as a team of hair stylists, costume designers and lighting engineers prepare the final shoot.
 
Sall explains that in Senegal, he had worked for  the public water utility.  He says he had everything: a job, a wife, two children, a home. While on vacation, he met another Senegalese who lived in Florence and insisted he visit, and he says he found the most beautiful city he has ever seen.
 
The curators say they were not looking simply for physical resemblance to the Renaissance portraits - but also similarities in their roles in society. Sall was chosen as the model for the Botticelli painting "Portrait of a Youth With a Medal." Like the boy in the painting, Elhadji is little known but, as a handyman, his work is felt everywhere.
 
The exhibition received the backing of Cristina Giacchi, Florence’s Minister of Universities and Culture.
 
Giacchi says a city like Florence attracts many people and, as a result can experience problems of integration. She says the most complex aspect has been to get Florentines comfortable with diversity.
 
At the height of the Arab Spring, thousands of Africans came to Italy in boats. Latest figures show many migrants are now leaving Italy to return to their home countries because of Italy’s economic crisis.
 
Elhhadji Sall is considering a return to Senegal. “Everything is changed‚ it is truly hard,” says Sall. “I have lost my job two or three times recently. As I speak to you, I do not have any work," he said. 
 
The exhibition has been on display at Florence’s Palazzo Vecchio. The curators plan to take it on tour across Italy.

You May Like

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor warns of obesity’s worldwide health impact More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: dwight from: dc
April 23, 2013 8:18 AM
western media always attack the west for being "racist". interestingly, we hardly see stories about how immigrants in other countries (e.g. japan, mexico, south korea, India, etc) are treated. why does the media avoid criticizing these countries? are they afraid of being called "racist"?

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam Wari
X
Katherine Gypson
May 25, 2015 1:32 AM
For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.

VOA Blogs

New in Music Alley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harry Wayne Casey – “KC” of KC and the Sunshine Band – comes to VOA’s Studio 4 to talk with "Border Crossings" host Larry London and perform songs from his new album, “Feeling You! The 60s.”