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The Archives of Black Italy: Re-presenting Alessandro de’ Medici 

The Archives of Black Italy: Re-presenting Alessandro de’ Medici
The Archives of Black Italy: Re-presenting Alessandro de' Medici

As a tribute to Black History Month Florence, on Thursday, 22 February 2024 at 5:30 pm the Italian Institute of Culture in Edinburgh and the University of St Andrews are delighted to present the talk The Archives of Black Italy: Re-presenting Alessandro de’ Medici by Dr Shelleen Greene (Associate Professor of Cinema and Media Studies, University of California, Los Angeles and Global Fellow, University of St Andrews) followed by a screening of the short film “Il Moro” (The Moor) by Italian director Daphne Di Cinto. The event will be chaired by Dr Giulia Borrini (University of St Andrews).

While the work of Italian activist documentarians have done a great deal to bring attention to the plight of non-Western European migrants and the failed immigration policies of the Italian government, Dr Shelleen Greens turns to the work of African-American filmmaker Kevin Jerome Everson. In this talk, she examines Everson’s experimental films, Rhinoceros (2013) and its prequel Rhino (2018), two imaginary stagings of the “last” days of Alessandro de’ Medici (1510-1537), the first Duke of Florence, and because of his mixed African-Italian heritage, considered the first Black European head of state. She explores the extent to which formal and narrative experimentation can offer a revisionist, transhistorical framework for understanding contemporary non-Western migration to Italy, one that posits related, but discontinuous histories of Italian colonialism and the Black presence in Italy’s early modern era. Rhinoceros and Rhino offer a nuanced reflection upon media, history, and Italian-African relations by evoking radical Black politics and Third World anti-imperialist struggle of the late 1960s. Dr Shelleen Greens contends that in its use of the experimental mode, Everson’s Rhinoceros and Rhino ultimately create a cinema that specifically addresses the economic and political ambiguities of the postcolonial era, by allowing a reconsideration of Italian-African relations in the broader context of Italian modern state formation.

“Il Moro” (2021) by Daphne Di Cinto is an award winning short film based on the true, yet untold, story of Alessandro de’ Medici, the first Duke of Florence in 1530 and the first man of African descent to become a head of state in Renaissance Europe. Despite the attempts to obscure or discredit his rule through centuries (and for different reasons), traces of Alessandro de’ Medici’s life persist, representing an unexplored facet of Italian and European culture that deserves greater attention. While unveiling a true story from the past, the film aims to speak loudly of the situations that Black Europeans are still experiencing today and to celebrate today’s Afro-European community in the history of the continent. The film invites us to question the narratives we’ve been taught and encourages us to embrace a wider perspective, widening our understanding of the past and at the same time creating a more equitable future.

Dr Shelleen Greene is Associate Professor of Cinema and Media Studies, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and Global Fellow for February 2024 at the School of Modern Languages, University of St Andrews. Greene’s extensive academic research focuses on analyzing the representation of Afrodescendant personalities in both cinema and other Italian cultural contexts. The monograph Equivocal Subjects. Between Italy and Africa – Constructions of Racial and National Identity in the Italian Cinema, published in 2012, is considered one of the milestones of Italian postcolonial cinema studies.

Black History Month Florence (BHMF), established in 2015 in the city of Florence, is a cross-institutional network engaged in the promotion and production of research and content dedicated to Blackness in the Italian context. The Festival offers debates, workshops, exhibitions, concerts and cinema throughout the month of February with the intention of promoting Afro-descendant culture in Italy. This year’s festival theme is WHOLE REST. Starting with the eighth edition in 2023, BHMF has included other Italian cities such as Bologna, Turin, Milan and Rome in order to emphasize how the entire history of the Italian peninsula is linked as much to that of the African continent as to those of Afro-descendant communities around the world. In September 2021, they have also inaugurated The Recovery Plan @ SRISA, a research centre that fosters transnational exchange around Afrodescendent cultures, designed to reflect upon Italy as a historic site for cultural exchange. Black History Month Florence is coordinated and organised by the Associazione Culturale BHMF, founded in 2018.


Free entry, but limited spaces. Please register below.

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  • Organizzato da: Italian Institute of Culture in Edinburgh
  • In collaborazione con: Italian Department, School of Modern Languages, University of St Andrews