«Africa sintetica, dinamica, simultanea»: Colonial Iconographies and Contexts in Italian Futurism

Giulia Beatrice, M.A.

This project investigates the links between Italian colonialism on the African continent and the Futurist movement, between the 1910s and the mid-1940s. The research aims to trace two particular threads in Italian Futurism: racialized and stereotyped representations of Africa, and images of imperialist warfare employed for colonial conquest. Although the project takes visual representations as its starting point, it also touches upon the various fields related to futurist cultural history, among them literature, performing arts, and ephemeral materials, as well as cultural politics (organization and participation in exhibitions).
The main objective of the research is to highlight the contribution of the avant-garde to the construction and diffusion of an Italian “colonial consciousness”. The case study applied to the Futurist movement helps probe the extent to which the modernist categories of “exotic”, “primitivistic” and “barbarian” reflected a colonial and subaltern perspective. This then allows a broader analysis of the dynamics between art and politics during the twenty-year Fascist period. Though it was part of the official propaganda of the regime, Futurism's elaboration of a “colonial art” had different results from those of an art that promoted mainly extra-artistic objectives and which aimed at legitimizing European colonial expansion.
The project, therefore, aims to highlight new aspects of Italian colonial history in Africa, which has only recently begun to be the subject of deep interest. The deconstruction of long-standing stereotypes – such as that of a "softer" and less violent Italian colonialism compared to that of other European countries, or the superimposition of colonialism on Fascism, leaving aside the legacy of the liberal period and the continuities with the post-war period – is fundamental for these studies.

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