Nicola Lo Calzo



Binidittu is a project that, through the story and cultural heritage of St Benedict the Moor, examines the relationship between the history of colonialism and contemporary cultural identity.

Born to sub-Saharan slaves in the early-16th century near Messina before living as a Franciscan friar in Sicily until his death (1589), St Benedict – known in Sicilian as ‘Binidittu’ – was not only elected protector of both Afro-descendants in Latin America and of the Palermitans, but also became an icon of redemption and emancipation worldwide. The exhibition is made up of around 30 medium and large-format images, and covers the main phases of Binidittu’s life: from his liberation from slavery up to his death, from the post-racist utopia to his beatification. 

Produced in collaboration with Milan’s Podbielski Contemporary Gallery, the exhibition is part of a long-term research project by Lo Calzo on the traces and legacy of the African diaspora and resistance to slavery, entitled Cham


To complete the exhibition, the photographs are accompanied by a video installation, The Open Boat: a work created as part of this research from moving images, part of the artist’s own film archive. The title is a reference and homage to the preface of the book Poetics of Relation, in which the Martinique writer Edoaurd Glissant uses the allegory of the ‘open boat’ to summarise the tragic experience of slavery and, at the same time, the possibility of rebirth through resistance. The work is the result of collaboration with the French director Hugo Rousselin.

With this project, and with Binidittu in particular, Lo Calzo’s ambition is to contribute to the debate on the removal of memory and the construction of identity from a post-colonial perspective, rediscovering not only the man beyond the saint or his corresponding figures in other parts of the world, but also the symbolic, political and civil values that this story passes on to us.

(text by Giangavino Pazzola)

Nicola Lo Calzo (Turin, 1979). Artist, teacher and researcher (École National d’Art de Paris-Cergy), Nicola Lo Calzo is interested in the relationships between photography, memory and power. His work explores the possible uses of documentary photography to interrogate the memory of subordinate groups. For ten years he has been engaged in long-term photographic research on the memories of the African diaspora and the resistance to colonial slavery between Africa, Europe and America: the Cham project. His works have been presented in museums, art centers or festivals, such as the Italian center for photography CAMERA, the Institute of Islamic cultures in Paris, the Casa de la Imagen in Mexico, the Macaal in Marrakech, the Hospice Comtesse in Lille, Afriques Capitales (curated by Simon Njami) in Paris, the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam, the Alinari National Museum of Photography in Florence. In 2018, he is the winner of the CNAP (French Ministry of Culture) award and nominated for the Prix Elysée 2019-2020. In 2020 he is nominated for the prestigious Prix Niépce.


H 11

Chiostri di San Pietro | Laboratorio Aperto



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