Establishing and updating history is both a form of erasure and loss. For centuries, Italy has been a country of immigration; one fifth of foreign citizens in Italy today are of African origin. Yet the cultures of African Diasporic communities have been disregarded in the canon. How – and by whom – can history be retold?
Traces of the African Diaspora remain largely invisible – since the colonial conquests until today. If at all, they can be found in neglected archives from the colonial era. Their presence in museum collections remains silent. Thus, a canon is (re-)produced that permanently excludes countless actors and legacies of the past. How are archives, collections and museums involved in these processes?
Since 2016, the African-American artist Justin Randolph Thompson has built a network for Black cultural production with his Black History Month Florence initiative, which celebrates the diversity of Italy’s African diasporic cultures. With the project On Being Present: Recovering Blackness in the Uffizi Galleries, his research has now also involved the “canon” itself: The virtual exhibition project with the Uffizi analyzes the previously voiceless representation of Black Lives in the museum’s collection of paintings, thus opening up new access to a different historiography.
With other experts, he discusses the visualization of Blackness in the self-image of the Renaissance city of Florence and one of the most important European art collections. How can past and present open up new perspectives beyond colonial hegemony?