Category: Blog

Photo of Saint Benedict by the artist Omar Victor Diop Blog

Call for Papers – Resignifications: The Black Mediterranean

Call for Papers

ReSignifications: The Black Mediterranean

City of Palermo − 2018 Italy’s Capital of Culture

University of Palermo (Italy), 7-9 June 2018


ReSignifications: The Black Mediterranean joins a series of international conversations, including Black Portraitures, breaking new ground in the fields of African and African Diasporic art, literature, cultural theory, history, and political practice. Scholars, writers, artists, and cultural activists from around the world will gather in the heart of the Mediterranean to reason together about issues of representation, migration, diaspora, slave-trade, border, mobility, citizenship, and human rights. We will discuss from a variety of approaches the historically and contemporary ways in which black voices have been silenced and black bodies have been ambiguously imagined in Western-dominated global culture. We will investigate why these questions are relevant to what is happening today in the Mediterranean, a crucial site of the African diaspora since the classic era.

Sicily lies at the center of the Mediterranean, where Africa and Europe encounter. Historically considered part of either one of the two continents, depending on the domination of the moment, the island has always functioned as a bridge. Its capital city Palermo, world-renowned for its diverse artistic and cultural heritage, is today one of the major ports of refuge for the countless migrants who arrive in Europe in flocks from the African shores. Designated Italy’s 2018 Capital City of Culture, on June 7-9 Palermo will become a resonant chamber of the million visual, oral, written, performed stories of the African diaspora.

At the backdrop to the conference will be the exhibition ReSignifications: European Blackamoors, Africana Readings, with the connected Wole Soyinka: Antiquities Across Times and Place. Collateral events of the MANIFESTA European Biennial of Contemporary Art, the exhibits will display the works of an array of international artists and the African art collection of Nigerian Nobel Prize for Literature Wole Soyinka, who will open the conference.



– Across the seas: performing the passage

– Autobiographies and self-portraiture

– Staging black archetypes

– Representations and politics of the black body

– Africa meets Europe

– Displacements: narratives of the harg

– Borders, safety and public authority

– After the Crusades: religion and warfare

– Islands and Archipelagos

– Creolization, hybridization and métissage

– Moors and Blackamoors

– Afro transnational formations

– The porosity of the sahel

– Africa and the Maghreb

– Slave-trade, sex-trafficking, human rights

– Coloring the Mediterranean

– Trans/identities: gendering/queering Africa and the Diaspora

– African intersections

– Black Italia

– Migration in the media

– Imagining citizenship: refuge, asylum, home

– Afro soundscapes

– Ports: shipwrecks and landings

– Memorialization and public commemoration

– The archives of the Diaspora

– The color(s) of Sicily

Proposals should be submitted by the EXTENDED DEADLINE of Sunday, April 22, 2018 @ 11:59PM



Photo © Omar Victor Diop, St. Benedict the Moor (1524-1589), MAGNIN-A Gallery Paris



Offer from the MFA

The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston is offering one free admission to conference attendees who visit the Museum between Thursday 3/22 and Monday 3/25.

To receive free admission, attendees should go to the ticketing desks at the Huntington Avenue or Fenway entrances, mention the conference by name, and present their conference badges.

Please see the MFA’s website for information on planning visits including open hours and directions by public transportation and car.


Testimonial: Black Portraiture(s) Experience

Dear Dr. Willis,

What a pleasure running into you at the Sunday market in Rosebank and formally meeting for the first time. Thank you again for being a force in making the conference happen.

This was my first time attending the Black Portraiture[s] conference as well as my first journey to the African continent, so a spectacular duality for me.

During my undergraduate studies in art school, I spent 4 years as the only black woman enrolled. So, I’m sure you can imagine what a striking contrast the conference has been. Having this kind of community to connect with means a lot.

It’s been a gift to attend the presentations of peers, contemporaries, fore mothers and fathers working through social and political issues, creating art.  I’ve had the opportunity to witness some things in their creative process and continue to assess my own and find context.

As I awoke the final day of the conference my spirit had a mini melt down at how swiftly it was all coming to a close, and this only Intensified with the days programming.

That Saturday morning, moderator Sandra Jackson-Dumont gleefully insisted panelist Daniel Dunson candidly sing the gospel, “This Little Light of Mine” aside from his presentation and had the audience join in and all. The closing panel I attended later that day Nervous Conditions: Representations of Black African Femininities was maybe even more intense. With each speaker, so striking. Heidi Sincuba expressed very personal and brutally honest writing and film regarding compromises made  to gain access to the institution of the art world and academia. Dynamic Nigerian American filmmaker Adetoro Makinde shared the contrast of how her work and ideals were received differently between her two native countries as well as her counter argument pro Coming to America (the film) in response to a controversial earlier panel. My peers, working artists, international women of color, each with a unique journey and argument, bearing personal testimony of their navigating the institution of the art world and their relationship to art practice. Truly inspirational. I felt so connected in purpose.

The gallery openings were brilliant and engaging. I think my favorite was sitting with Carrie Mae Weems 24 minute video, at Goodman Gallery.  The association, music, food & drink, and parties following the hours of lectures were non-stop, a rigorous set of days with everything going on but sleep.

I look forward to returning next year and perhaps presenting as well. Thank you again for the opportunity to reconnect.


All the best,
Elaine Hargrove


Exhibition May 9 – June 5, 2017 | Havana:…

Significations frames contemporary imaginations of Africa as a subject of conversation among artists from all over the Atlantic World. It extends a previous exhibition ReSignifications, that opened in Florence, Italy, in 2015. Significations builds on the curatorial narrative of ReSignifications by staging works in which African and African diasporic conventions of theme and style inscribe such ideas as subjectivity, citizenship, and spirituality into the larger, trans-African world of art-making.

Significations will be based at the Provincial Center of Plastic Arts & Design in Havana between May 9th and June 5th.

Tour Package

Our partner gallery in Havana, the Magnan Metz Gallery, is offering a tour package. The cost of the package is $2400 and includes:

  • Four nights and Five days at Hotel Sevilla
  • Museum visits to Hemingway House, The Museum of Fine Arts and The Museum of Decorative Arts.
  • Transportation to all activities including Airport to and from pick-up, Meals, Museum visits, Exhibition opening.
  • License for travel to Cuba (People to People license via Magna Metz Gallery)
  • Meals (lunches and dinner)

Please note that airfare and visa are not included as it is easier for everyone to purchase their airfare and the visa is cheapest when bought directly at the airport on the day of departure.

Social Media

Further information on the exhibition can be found at, Twitter, and Facebook, and by following the hashtag #Significations

Many thanks,

Awam Amkpa – Curator
Nayo Sasaki-Picou – Assistant Curator


Fellowships in the Stuart A. Rose Library

Friends:  I had a lovely time at the conference in Johannesburg.  I was inspired by the presentations and various conversations with new colleagues and friends.  The experience has definitely made me realize the need to collaborate more broadly with curators, artists and scholars to continue to elevate the importance of the work we are doing globally.   In the spirit of collaboration, I wanted to pass along some information related to the Stuart A. Rose Library’s fellowship program (see link below).
Best regards,
Pellom McDaniels III
Have something to share with the Black Portraiture[s] community? Complete this form or email us at

Black Portraiture[s] III In The Press


“On the “A” w/Souleo: Global Politics and Art Converge in Johannesburg Conference”. The Huffington Post, 22 November 2016,
“Global Art Leaders Convene in Johannesburg to Discuss the Black Body” Artsy, 21 November 2016,
“Hip-hop music: the soundtrack to the fight for black liberation” This Is Africa, 29 November 2016,
“Meet Artist Ayana V. Jackson in Johannesburg”. W Magazine, 21 November 2016, .
“Artist Ayana V Jackson On Portraiture, Identity and Curating A New Show” . Marie Claire South Africa, 25 May 2016, .
“International Conference Breaks New Ground”. Cornell Chronicle, 5 December 2016,
“Africans in America” probes questions of identity and nomenclature. The Economist, 30 November 2016, .
“The Beauty and Complexity of the Black Experience Explored in Johannesburg”. Okayafrica, 12 December 2016, .
“Inside/Out: Part 1, Reflecting “Black Portraitures” – Towards a Genealogy of Intersections & Beginnings”. Big Red and Shiny, 16 December 2016,


Selected Abstracts from Black Portraiture[s], provided by Nka Journal of Contemporary African Art [available from 11/21/16 to 12/05/16]

A Message to BPIII Attendees

Dear ​Participants,

I would like to thank you​ ​all​ ​for attending​ and contributing to the success of​ BLACK PORTRAITURE[S] III: Reinventions: Strains of Histories and Cultures in ​Johannesburg, ​South Africa this past week. The primary goal of the conference was to bring together artists, activists, and scholars from around the world to engage in discussion on a range of topics​ ​​in an interdisciplinary way​. ​The conversations that took place were fascinating, informative and fruitful. I hope that you found your participation in the conference as worthwhile as I did​.

As with the previous BLACK PORTRAITURE[S]​ ​conferences, this event will be remembered for years to come. Duke University has memorialized the BP conference in Paris ​(2014) ​with a selection of essays, which is now online and accessible free of charge to conference attendees. Please take a moment visit from 11/21/16 to 12/05/16 for exclusive access.

This Issue
Volume 2016, Number 38-39, November 2016


And, visit for video links to our conference in Florence​ (2015)​.

Thank you, again, for making ​it such a wonderful and highly stimulating experience!


Deborah Willis, Ph.D. University Professor and Chair


Exhibition – Africans In America

Concurrent to Black Portraiture[s] III is the exhibition Africans in America, conceptualized and curated by artist Hank Willis Thomas and Liza Essers. Africans in America aims to speak to the flows, exchanges and continuities between the continent of Africa and the United States.

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