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25 febbraio 2021 ore 17.00

Diretta Facebook Murate Art District

Intervengono: Jems Kokobi e Dia Papa Demba
Modera: Justin Randolph Thompson
In collaborazione con MAD Murate Art District

I've Known Rivers | Black History Month Florence VI ed.

I’ve Known Rivers draws its title from a line in a 1920 poem by Langston Hughes that speaks of diaspora and lineage through the metaphor of rivers. This project looks to the artist Jems Kokobi reworking traditions and connecting his artistic practice to the sustainability of the natural environment through the material of wood and a response to deforestation’s impact on rivers, natural processes that have since been industrialized and a reflection on the reclaiming of the spiritual dimensions of this work. The artist, engaged in Afrocentric meditations on history and the bridging of the contemporary art world to activist tactics, is placed in dialogue with a local representative of the trade unions around tanneries connected to the Arno river and engaged in sustainability through technological processes and the rights of workers. The conversation is an interdisciplinary one placing practice and poetry side by side.

Dia Papa Demba

President of the regional coordination of Tuscan foreigners' councils

Dia Papa Demba was born in Senegal in 1971 and has lived in Tuscany for 20 years. Since 2010 he is an Italian citizen. He lives in Pontedera where he is a  trade unionist, responsible for the tanning area and basin operator for crafts in the area of Livorno and Pisa. He has always worked in a tannery and was  president of the Council of Foreigners of the Municipality of Pontedera. He is currently president of the regional coordination of Tuscan foreigners’ councils  and councils... engaged in associations. For several Italian based Senegalese associations he been involved with international cooperation projects with  Senegal.

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Jems Koko Bi  

Sculptor and performer

Both a sculptor and a performer, Jems Koko Bi mixes avant-gardist influences to his firmly African history. In his works, he questions the notions of space and  time, within a wider and ongoing reflection on his own existence.

”The trees give me instructions and I carry them out in the wood. They advise me and I tell their stories.”

His wooden sculptures initiate a conversation with the forces of nature. In his studio at the heart of the forest, immense... sculptures see the light of day and  interrogates the identity and the ancestors, the native land and the exile. Through a subtle and confident gesture, the artist reveals the outlines of matter. Following multiple deafening swings, a face comes out of the stump. The mechanized, sympathetic, hand drags it out. It has always existed, but it was  hidden  from the world. The gesture reveals its shape. In rhythm, through gentle touches, the artist seems to caress its surface, which he transforms at each  passage. He awakens the element with a mastered intuitive precision: a dance armed with an iron fist in a breath of tenderness.


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Justin Randolph Thompson

co-founder and director Black History Month Florence

Justin Randolph Thompson is a new media artist, cultural facilitator and educator born in Peekskill, NY in ’79. Living between Italy and the US since 1999, Thompson is Co-Founder and Director of Black History Month Florence, a multi-faceted exploration of African and African Diasporic cultures in the context of Italy founded in 2016. Thompson is a recipient of a Louise Comfort Tiffany Award, a Franklin Furnace Fund Award, a Visual Artist Grant from the Fundacion Marcelino Botin, two... Foundation for Contemporary Arts Emergency Grants, A Jerome Fellowship from Franconia Sculpture Park and an Emerging Artist Fellowship from Socrates Sculpture Park. His life and work seek to deepen the discussions around socio-cultural stratification and hierarchical organization by employing fleeting temporary communities as monuments and fostering projects that connect academic discourse social activism and DIY networking strategies in annual and biennial gathering, sharing and gestures of collectivity.



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Janine Gaëlle Dieudji

co-founder and director Black History Month Florence

Janine Gaëlle Dieudji is a bi-national French and Cameroonian graduate of Culture and International Relations from Lyon 3 University in France. She also holds a Master Degree in Political Science from Paris 2 Panthéon Assas University.

She’s been living in Florence, Italy, for the past six years, a city she has since fallen in love with. This is how Florence became home to her and the place where she started to build her career as an art professional. She considers herself as a... ‘multi­local’ by believing that we belong to all the places we have lived in. Home is where the mind can create and feel rested at the same time. This is what the life journey is made for, exploring to become the person we decide to be.

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Black History Month Florence

Curatorial team

Black History Month Florence was founded in 2016 is a cross institutional network for Black cultural production that celebrates Afro-descendent Cultures in the context of Italy. The initiative is engaged in programming, advising and co-promoting over 50 events annually within the month of February, through a network formed and supported by the Comune, foundations, institutions, cultural associations, museums, schools and venues dedicated to art and to music. BHMF as a curatorial team is headed... by Justin Randolph Thompson and Janine Gaelle Dieudji.

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