News / Arts & Entertainment

Anti-Immigrant Attacks Spur Florence Artists to Action

Anti-Immigrant Attacks Spur Florence Artists to Actioni
X
April 23, 2013
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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Analysts Warn of Regional Proxy Conflict in Afghanistan

Analysts warn if Kabul’s neighbors do not start to cooperate, competing desires for influence could deteriorate into a bloody proxy war in the country More

Saudi Intelligence Chief Replaced

Bandar bin Sultan came under criticism for supporting al Qaida, prompting King Abdallah to wrest Syria operations away from him in February, handing them to Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef More

Poetry Magazine editor Don Share talks what makes a good poem with VOA's David Byrd

What makes a good poem? And is poetry as viable an art form as it once was? To find out, VOA's David Byrd spoke to Don Share, the editor of Poetry Magazine. 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.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Border Crossings

With over five million records sold worldwide, singer-songwriter MIKA is best known for his hit single “Grace Kelly.” MIKA joins "Border Crossings" to perform live and to talk with host Larry London about his latest CD “The Origin Of Love.”