Africa Becomes Protagonist in New MAXXI Exhibition
From June 22nd to October 14th, nine African artists, filmmakers, and photographers expose and transform deep wounds of Africa’s history and address its ongoing journey towards justice and healing. The program, curated by Anne Palopoli, features eleven works that address the past, present, and future in a powerful sequence that leaves you aching for the land’s tribulations and hopeful for its future.
Sounds of roaring winds and rushing water emanate from John Akomfrah’s short film, “Peripeteia,” which animates two of the earliest representations of Africans in Western art. Two figures from Albrecht Dürer’s 16th century sketches become ghostly figures, wandering in a desolate moorland landscape in complete isolation. The combination of the film’s incredible cinematography and the characters’ soulful gazes draws you into dark moods that linger as hauntingly as the figures do.
The film’s overwhelming sounds spill out of the room and accompany suspended photographs of contemporary life in Ethiopia. Michael Tsegaye’s photos, both in color and B&W, document the social damage brought by the industrialization and expropriation of local farmland. You cannot help but feel an unshakable discomfort while weaving through and staring at these powerful images, which summon a deeper disorientation with their airy suspensions.
Three maps from artist Moshekwa Langa follow the suspended photographs, which provide an intimate insight into the social and political dimension of South Africa. Scribbles and scratches overlay physical maps, some noting “water rights” and “fishing rights.” The most jarring are phrases like “invasion of the body,” “it came from outerspace,” and “They lived happily ever after!” The seemingly senseless words impress themselves into your mind, leaving you both perplexed and haunted by the events that unfolded there.
Bouchra Khalili’s photography and short film presents the story and repercussions of liberation movements in Algiers between 1962-72. Khalili’s Foreign Office features photographs of the buildings and rooms that once hosted the liberation movements, which bear a crisp, eerie light that demands audiences to feel the places’ struggles and heartbreaks. The short film shows two young Algerians untangling the movements of the International Section of the Black Panther Party, Nelson Mandela’s ANC, and the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde. Like Khalili’s photographs, the film digs up forgotten realities and struggles, and address how historical events ripple into contemporary life.
Following Khalili’s work is another short film called “It’s a Pleasure to Meet You,” influenced by the friction between students and the Truth and Reconciliation Committee, an organization dedicated to healing the trauma brought by the apartheid in South Africa. Sue Williamson’s short film documents a discussion between Candice Mama and Siyah Mgooduka, who share their experiences about discovering the deaths of their fathers at the hands of the apartheid and how it has influenced their lives. The raw, honest dialogue unearths how the same trauma has molded individuals in contrasting and similar ways, and how individuals navigate the complexities of forgiveness, identity, and justice.
One of the last exhibition pieces is a short film by Malik Nejmi titled “4160”. Nejmi, who once resided at Villa Medici with his family and travelled between Italy and Morocco, uses dance and visual arts to explore trans-cultural and trans-generational relationships. Both intimate and impersonal shots of Nejmi’s children and objects once belonging to his grandmother create a poetic exploration of dislocation and identity. Even though the film’s sound and color appear more neutral than some other works in the exhibition, a similar melancholic ache imbues the artist’s self-exploration.
Road to Justice’s finely curated exhibition is an event for everyone to experience; artists’ works do not only impress your eyes but your heart, and clearly demonstrate the universal and intercultural importance of Africa’s history. Every piece of film, art, and photography portrays artists’ emotions and experiences as not one-dimensional, easily digestible occurrences. Instead, their work is both melancholic and empowering; it unapologetically points to past injustices and demands an open conversation about a new future that requires everyone’s attention and efforts in manifesting.
Till October 14
Via Guido Reni, 4/a
Tue-Fri, Sun: 11am-7pm, Sat: 11am-10pm
Entry Fee: €12