Italy and East Africa: Unexplored Histories

UPDATE: At both The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery and the Istituto Italiano di Cultura, the health and safety of our visitors, artists, volunteers and staff members is our first priority.

It is with this in mind that we announce the cancellation of our Symposium: Italy and East Africa — Unexplored Histories. We are closely monitoring the status of COVID-19 in Toronto and across the globe and are looking to present this thought-provoking Symposium at a later date. We will continue to update our community as the situation changes.

To consider multiple perspectives about migrations, modernism, and Italian colonization in East Africa – the subject of Dawit L. Petros: Spazio Disponibile – in greater depth, The Power Plant presents a one-day symposium in partnership with the Istituto Italiano di Cultura.

Italy colonized Eritrea in 1890 and Ethiopia in 1935, controlling these geographies until the Second World War. The rest of the world took little notice of these land grabs, seeing the territory, its natural resources and its population as ripe with potential for economic exploitation. But how does this period in African and Italian history inform the current political climate, past and present migrations, and how have artists responded to its legacy?

This symposium will bring artist Dawit L. Petros, guest curator Irene Campolmi, and scholars together for an intellectual encounter.


1 to 1:45 pm

Exhibition walk-through of Dawit L. Petros: Spazio Disponibile
Irene Campolmi, guest curator

1:45 to 2 pm

Break / Walk over to Studio Theatre, Harbourfront Centre

2 pm

Gaëtane Verna, Director, The Power Plant

Alessandro Ruggera, Director, Istituto Italiano di Cultura

Amin Alsaden, Nancy McCain & Bill Morneau Curatorial Fellow, The Power Plant

2:15 to 3 pm

Artist Talk
Dawit L. Petros
Followed by Q&A with the artist

3 to 4:15 pm


Postcolonial Spaces: Modernity, Conscription and Resistance in G. Hailu’s Novel The Conscript
Ghirmai Negash, Professor of English & Postcolonial Literatures, and Director of African Studies Program, Ohio University

Domestic Space as Pre(-)Occupied Space: Intimate Labors along Italy's Migration and Colonial Circuits
Teresa Fiore, Professor and Inserra Chair in Italian and Italian American Studies, Modern Languages and Literatures, Montclair State University

Followed by Q&A moderated by Irene Campolmi

4:15 to 4:30 pm


4:30 to 5:45 pm


Italian Colonialism and Its Legacy: The Transnational Lives of Works of Art
Carmen Belmonte, Italian Academy for Advanced Studies, Columbia University/ Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz

On Failure
Sean Anderson, Associate Curator in the Department of Architecture and Design at The Museum of Modern Art, New York

Followed by Q&A moderated by Liz Park, Curator of Exhibitions, University at Buffalo Art Galleries

5:45 to 6 pm

Summative Thoughts
Dawit L. Petros, Irene Campolmi & Liz Park