“The Recovery Plan: Alle porte coi sassi” (The Recovery Plan: At the doors with stones) is an exhibition focused on the recovery of underrepresented and under-narrated fragments of Black history in Italy, both as an invitation towards social healing and as a critique on the exclusion of Black history within Italian culture. It draws its title from a Florentine saying that refers to a late arrival or an imminent change on the horizon. The saying dates to a period when Florence had closed itself within its walls in response to volatile military advances by neighboring cities. Since many Florentines of the period worked in the countryside, outside the city walls, each evening those late to return would throw stones at the gates to be let back into the city.
The project employs this metaphor as a parallel to the experience of people of African descent in Italy, now shaping what constitutes Italianness in contrast with the dominant monoculture.
The transformation of the spaces at Morgan State University into a cultural center dedicated to Black Italian history provides an opportunity for a dialogue across Black diaspora, that challenges common misperceptions of Italian culture.
The project brings together three research platforms of the Florence based center: The Recovery Plan. The first part is constituted by the works of three Italian artists of African descent: Kelly Costigliolo, Adji Dieye, and Christian Offman. The second segment, on display at the James E. Lewis Museum of Art, is the “Library-on-Loan”, encompassing books and publications on the experience of African descendants primarily collected from the Bologna based publication “Africa e Mediterraneo”. Finally, the last segment of the project, on display in the atrium of Martin D. Jenkins Hall, is part of the IV volume of “Black Archive Alliance”.
The works presented by the three young artists encourage us to reconsider what constitutes art within the Italian cultural identity. The multimedia works and installations immerse the viewer and emphasize their role as a bridge between past and present. The artists provide critical insight regarding the shortcomings of preservation and control of archiving practices. Finally, the ambiguity requires active viewer participation in the re-narration of intertwined histories in relation to contemporary Italian society.
Adji Dieye is a Senegalese and Italian artist born in 1991 in Milan, Italy. Adji lives and works between Dakar, Milan, and Zurich. In her practice, Adji focuses on the notions of representation from historically colonized hemispheres in continental and Mediterranean Africa. Through the observation of the role of culture in advertising, in public monuments, and in national archives, she questions identity formation and aesthetic self-determination. Her use of photography aims to challenge what is considered mainstream “knowledge” and the processes of “othering” that it implies.
Adji holds a degree in New Art Technologies from the Academy of Fine Arts of Brera in Milan (Italy), an MFA from the Zurich University of the Arts (ZHDK) in Zurich(Switzerland), and she is one of the 19 Foam Talents 2020 and one of the winners of the C/O Berlin Talent Award 2021. Her work has been shown in several international exhibitions such as the 12th edition of the Rencontres de la Photographie Africaine (Bamako, 2019); the exhibition Of bread, wine, cars, security and peace at Kunsthalle Wien (Vienna, 2019); at the Clark House Art Centre (Mumbai, 2019); or at the Lagos Photo Festival (Lagos, 2018). Adji Dieye’s work has been selected for the 14th edition of the Dakar Biennale in 2020, which took place in 2022.
Kelly Costigliolo is an italian and brazilian artist based in Paris who works with photography and personal archives. She focuses on the concept of memory and time, as is evident in her biographical project “Fu mio padre” which is a loving portrait of her father’s adventurous life as a veteran of the Russian Campaign during WWII. Her work attemps to protect the petite mémoire, a saying coined by the French artist Christian Boltanski to describe how the smallest things or the ones we care for the most, are often the easiest to be forgotten.
Her work has been shown internationally in various exhibitions such as “THE EDGE EFFECT” (Milan, 2021); “AT HOME” (Abuja, 2021); “RAPID RESPONSE RESTITUTION” (Lagos, 2020); “The Distance Between What We Know and What Can Work” (Florence, 2019); “TODOS LATINOS” (Mexico, 2018); “DES GENRES ET DES COULEURS” (Arles, 2017) and “VIAGGIO A MAKOBENI” (Rome, 2014).
Christian Offman (Rwanda, 1993) lives and works between Munich and Bologna. He moved to Italy in 1999. Growing up between Rwanda and Italy, his aesthetics and practice reflect the sum of these two culturally different and geographically distant poles. Focal point of his research are identity, memory, and historical repression as they drive the contradictions and ideological flaws that demarcate a postcolonial contemporaneity. Offman’s artistic practice is the result of different layers of research, in which history, sociology and tradition are questioned.
He attended the Academy of Fine Arts in Bologna, the Kunstakademie Münster Hochschule für Bildende Kunste and the Akademie der Bil- denden Künste München. He participated in YGBI Research Residency in Florence in 2021. His latest exhibitions include the group shows “SEDIMENTS. After memory” (Rome, 2022) and “TUCUL. Monumenti temporanei a Agitu Ideo Gudeta” (Trento, 2021).
BLACK HISTORY MONTH FLORENCE
Black History Month Florence (BHMF) is a cross-institutional network engaged in the promotion and production of research and content dedicated to Blackness in the Italian context. BHMF was launched in 2016 and is coordinated and organized by the Associazione Culturale BHMF.
THE RECOVERY PLAN – THE CENTER
The Recovery Plan, in Florence, Italy, is a cultural hub and facilitator of research dedicated to people and cultures of African descent in Italy. It is co-promoted by BMHF and fosters transnational exchange employing research, art, and documents as a mean to explore the history and contemporary legacy of what constitutes being Black in a global context.
MORGAN STATE UNIVERSITY
Morgan State University, founded in 1867, is a Carnegie-classified high research (R2) institution providing instruction to a multiethnic, multiracial, and multinational student body. As one of the nation’s most diverse Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and the largest in Maryland, Morgan seeks to ensure that the doors of higher education are opened to as many as possible.
JAMES E. LEWIS MUSEUM OF ART (JELMA)
The James E. Lewis Museum of Art (JELMA) is the cultural extension of Morgan State University’s Fine Arts academic program. Developed to enhance the scholastic experience of the University’s student population and the ethnically diverse community’s exposure to works of art, JELMA provides opportunities to experience exhibitions, programs, and lectures.