Anna Arabindan-Kesson
Art historian, writer, curator

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The Migrant’s Time: New Work and New Sights in Palermo

In June I travelled to Sicily to attend Resignifications: Black Mediterranean, a conference held at the University of Palermo from June 6-9.  Making the most of the geography of Sicily and its physical and conceptual proximity to the African continent, the conference brought a unique community of artists, activists and scholars together to discuss, collaborate and dream. The conversations, panels and lectures focused on migration and migrating cultures and given the political climate, they were difficult but also challenging. They reminded me, to paraphrase Angela Davis, that I need no longer accept the things I cannot change, but I must change the things I cannot accept.


Along with moderating an excellent panel on the intersections of Africa, Europe and Asia, I had the opportunity to present some new work drawn from my own experiences of immigration and recent research into nineteenth-century traveling artists. My paper The Migrant’s Time, explored the interconnected histories of the Black Atlantic and the Black Mediterranean using the work of artists Joy Gregory, Isaac Julien and Robert S Duncanson. Tracing how these artists reframe Italy as a center of historical and contemporary circuits of movement, I wanted to reorient contemporary descriptions of migration that occlude the longer history of crossings that have always connected Europe, Asia,Africa and the Americas. The paper was well received, and during my sabbatical it will be reworked into a journal article.

Anna Arabindan-Kesson