As a collaborative project, Cascades involves both shared and individual
research and outputs. A list of selected shared references frames the project
and provides a constellation of thinkers, topics and materials across
times and geographies.
ripples from the Abyssinian Crisis
In 2020, we worked on two research projects which were both inspired by the global repercussions of the 1934-37 Abyssinian Crisis: My Heritage? (Alessandra) and Decolonial Dovetailing (Elisa). In these two independent, but closely associated projects, we explore colonial erasures, ‘difficult heritage’, archival segregation and insurgent bodies of knowledge. Moving upstream, we trace the ripples of a crucial, but almost forgotten historical event that triggered a wave of anticolonial demonstrations and insurgencies across the globe.
We present here both shared and individual research and outcomes, including a conversation on historical heritage as responsibility, positionality, and critical issues around whiteness and colonial archives.
Decolonial Dovetailing - Elisa Adami in conversation with Alessandra Ferrini
Part of Decolonising the Archives 2020: Podcast Series
This episode is part of a mini-series of podcasts exploring the wave of anti-colonial demonstrations and insurgencies that were triggered by the illegal invasion of Ethiopia by fascist Italy in 1935, with a particular focus on the Pan-African movement. Elisa considers both artistic and scholarly projects that reactivate the legacy of this historical moment in the present.
In this episode of ‘Decolonial Dovetailing’, Elisa talks with Alessandra about her project My Heritage?, 2020, that was recently featured in the exhibition ‘Rue d’Algier’, part of Les Parallèles du Sud – the official program of collateral events of Manifesta 13 in Marseilles. They discuss historical heritage as responsibility, positionality, and critical issues around whiteness and colonial archives.
My Heritage? (2020) is a site-specific intervention within the vestibule of the former Casa d’Italia in Marseille, inaugurated in 1935 and now housing the Italian Cultural Institute. The installation focuses on the historical and ideological context that the building incarnates: the intensification of Fascist imperial aspirations that culminated in the fascistization of the Italian diaspora and the establishment of the Empire in 1936, as a result of the occupation of Ethiopia. As the League of Nations failed to intervene in a war involving two of its members, the so-called Abyssinian Crisis gave rise to a series of conflicts that eventually led to the WW2: a ‘cascade effect’. On the other hand, the attack on the ‘black man’s last citadel’ (Ras Makonnen), together with the brutality of Italian warfare, caused widespread protests and support to the Ethiopian resistance, especially from Pan-African movements.
Placed by the entrance of the exhibition Rue d’Alger, it includes a prominent and inescapable sound piece featuring collaged extracts from texts by members of the London-based Pan-African association International African Friends of Ethiopia - CLR James, Ras Makonnen, Amy Ashwood Garvey - intertwined with those of British suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst and Italian anarchist Silvio Corio, founders of the newspaper New Times and Ethiopian News in London.
The project was developed as part of Rue d'Alger - Manifesta 13 Paralléles du Sud, Marseille, curated by Alessandro Gallicchio.
More information here.
Decolonial Dovetailing: Potential Encounters and Archival Elisions in Thorold Dickinson’s Archive
In December 1937, at the London Film Society, film director Thorold Dickinson presented a
program that ‘dovetailed’ alternate reels from Italian and Soviet propaganda films depicting the
brutal Fascist invasion of Abyssinia, initiated in October 1935. By juxtaposing the crass
glorification of militarism in the film commissioned by the Fascist regime against the documentation of atrocities in the Russian film (most notably the Italian army’s deployment of poison gas), Dickinson powerfully deconstructed the official falsehoods of Italian colonial aggression.
In this project I adopt Dickinson’s rhetorical device of dovetailing – the suturing or juxtaposition of images taken from different reels – in order to apply it to the director’s own archive, housed at the UAL’s Archives and Special Collection Centre. In dovetailing images, film extracts, documents, and textual excerpts taken from Dickinson’s archive and other collections, my project aims both to expand on what is not in the archive, and to deconstruct what is there.
By juxtaposing Dickinson's work with the words and deeds of Pan-African and anti-colonial intellectuals, I put forward a more radical and expansive critique of colonialism and empire than Dickinson’s own implicit imperial worldview permits.
This project was produced as part of the research residency Decolonising Archives at UAL's Decolonising Arts Institute.
Read the paper here.