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

India PM Modi's Party Distances Itself From Religious Conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic 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.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Soul Lounge

"Soul Lounge" host Shawna Renee catches up with soul singer and songwriter Russell Taylor to hear what he’s been up to since winning the VH1 "You Oughta Know" title in 2013. She also convinces him to share a few songs from his album "War of Hearts."