Black Madonnas occupied every landing in the Elba Island hotel where I retreated last summer. Beautiful to behold, sacred and ageless, the transracial religious art in an isolated corner of Tuscany elicited introspection when Black Lives Matter protests were calling each and every one of us to action.
It was a sweltering day when Justin Randolph Thompson and I sat down outdoors for coffee—and a renewed commitment. The Florentine has always given space to Black History Month Florence as the cultural initiative has evolved since its foundation in 2016, but in 2021 we feel compelled to dive deeper and broaden an awareness of Black culture in Florence. In addition to a regular column, this month’s issue contains an extended special edited by BHMF, which will be accompanied by online chats on our Facebook pages and YouTube channels. It’s our hope that the Italian media will follow suit to amplify under-acknowledged voices throughout the country. Contents include a thought-provoking review of the McArthur Binion exhibition on display at the Museo Novecento, commentary about a self-guided walking tour to unsilence Florence’s colonial past, and a searching consideration of the coloniality of coffee. Thank you to everyone involved in BHMF for making this issue possible and for your dynamic endeavours to enrich our collective culture. Please support BHMF.
Speaking about universality, on a bone-chilling day, the glorious heritage of the Great Synagogue of Florence left an enduring impact. Built between 1874 and 1882, the impressive temple has undergone extensive restoration in modern times and now glows with beauty and belief—the dome appeared on our February 2018 cover. The Florentine was there to document Hershey Felder’s forthcoming production, Before Fiddler, which, accompanied by the rousing refrains of the Klezmerata Fiorentina ensemble, tells the life story of Yiddish writer Sholem Aleichem, otherwise known as the Jewish Mark Twain. The show will be streamed on February 7 and remain available on demand for a week. Have you taken in a virtual theatre show in recent months? What did you think? A friend recently wrote to me, questioning ticketing prices for online performances: “Seems steep for a Zoom show.” At a time when many are strapped for cash, the question is pertinent. It’s true that streamed shows can sometimes lack quality, but many artists are now making previously unfathomable leaps, converting theatre to full-blown film art that lifts spirits, edifies and entertains. Surely that’s worth the cost of a dinner (well, lunch, given the continued evening Covid closures in Italy).
Purchase your Before Fiddler tickets. Tickets cost 45 euro per household with 50% of proceeds bought through the link generously donated to The Florentine.
This month brings another cultural issuance. Who, in their right mind, would publish a collection of poems in the eye of a pandemic? The Florentine Press, of course! Self-enrichment is a gatekeeper this winter, as seen in the revived interest in Dante, and poetry provides shelter in this never-ending storm. I, for one, have dusted off my poetry books and indulge in a soothing verse before bedtime. So, we’re proud to present Harry Cochrane’s The Florence Duck Store, an anthology of 23 poems inspired by Italy. ‘The Florence Duck Store’ is the longest verse in the collection centred on an unrequited love story and a flock of rubber ducks, while ‘Vinanelle’ sees the vanishing of a long-cherished bottle of plonk. Modern translations of Guido Cavalcanti and Leon Battista Alberti graze the pages, as does a contemporary take on Dante’s Purgatorio. Presales are now open (15 euro/shipping on Feb 10).
In this issue, read about the Andrea Bocelli Foundation, which recently opened its headquarters and educational venue in the San Firenze complex; meet Reverend Richard Easterling, the new priest in charge at St. James Episcopal Church; and listen to the language-transcendent electronic beats of Mark DiFlorio and David Iozzi.
And remember to tune into our YouTube channel on February 5 at 6:30pm CET. Linda Falcone, director of Advancing Women Artists, will be in conversation with Cristina Acidini, president of Florence’s oldest drawing academy, Accademia delle Arti del Disegno.
Enjoy the read,
Helen Farrell, editor-in-chief
The February 2021 covers
We get quietly disruptive with this month’s cover since we fell head over heels with two different images of the McArthur Binion exhibition on display at the Museo Novecento.
Digital subscribers cover
Our digital subscribers receive the February issue of The Florentine featuring this cover of the large wooden altarpiece titled Modern Ancient Brown-Altar artwork produced by African American artist McArthur Binion specifically for Florence’s Museo Novecento.
Print magazine cover
Print subscribers and readers around Florence will instead receive the February issue featuring an extract from McArthur Binion’s notebook, which formed the basis of the Modern Ancient Brown-Altar on show in the Museo Novecento and investigates the relationship between the paper’s grid and layers of oil paint.
New for 2021: readers can now purchase single pdf issues (5 euro) of The Florentine without being obliged to subscribe for longer periods of time. Click here to buy the February 2021 issue.
What’s in the February issue of The Florentine
Black History Month Florence special:
A refuge with a reminder – A review of Modern Ancient Brown at Museo Novecento / Justin Randolph Thompson
Echoes and agreements – A photo essay in partnership with the Gallerie degli Uffizi / Theophilus Marboah
Breaking the silence – Unsilencing Florence’s colonial past / Daphné Budasz
The Black body – Portraying Africans in Italy / Angelica Pesarini
Black stories on the bookshelf – A month of reading in Feltrinelli stores
Coffee and colonialism – Thoughts of a barista in Florence / Jessica Sartiani
Letter to the editor about Made in Tuscany crafts
Invest in Tuscany: celebrating 10 years of foreign investment / Helen Farrell
Coffee craft in Florence / Phoebe Hunt
Additional content this February
Best events this February / Jane Farrell
Interview with Lapo Chirici of IED Firenze
A Santo Spirito lunch with Andre Thomas Halyard / Hershey Felder
The Andrea Bocelli Foundation: new educational hub and headquarters / Jane Farrell
At Home guide: comforts from Tuscany
Welcoming words with Reverend Richard Easterling and David Wohlgemuth / Helen Farrell
The Great Synagogue and the Jewish community of Florence / Hershey Felder
When music transcends language: Coriandoli Elettronici / Jane Farrell
The Buffalo Soldiers / Deirdre Pirro