Sarenco L’Africano and the Italo-African Fusion of the 1980s and 1990s

Villa Romana, Florence, Italy
19 Oct 2018 - 30 Nov 2018

Sarenco L’Africano (Aziz Sarenco Sharif, Mau Mau Sarenco Gitaj), La platea dell’umanita, 2001

Sarenco L’Africano (Aziz Sarenco Sharif, Mau Mau Sarenco Gitaj), La platea dell’umanita, 2001

Villa Romana currently presents “Sarenco L’Africano and the Italo-African Fusion of the 1980s and 1990s”.

In 2001 Harald Szeemann invited the Italian artist Sarenco, who died in February 2017, to participate in the 49th Venice Biennale. In the Corderie dell’Arsenale Sarenco exhibited a group of life-size figural wood sculptures that he had had produced in Kenya, his second home, as well as over 300 painted text-tableaux. Szeemann also asked Sarenco to propose a series of African artists for the Piattaforma del pensiero (Platform of Thought), which formed the centrepiece of the Italian pavilion. At the conclusion of the Biennale, a collector consortium from Prato /Florence /Verona purchased Sarenco´s Biennale contribution. The collector and art dealer, Carlo Palli, whose focus lies in the art of Fluxus and visual poetry, had already been introduced to the paintings and photographs of African artists in the 1980s and 1990s by Sarenco and had subsequently integrated them into Italian collections. A selection of the remaining works by Amadou Makhtar Mbaye, Kivuthi Mbuno, George Lilanga, John Nzau, David Ochieng, Abdallah Salim, Johnny Kilaka, Peter Martin, Almighty God and Maurus Malikita will be exhibited and recontextualised in the Villa Romana together with Sarenco’s wooden sculptures.

Sarenco – also known as Sarenco L´Africano, Aziz Sarenco Sharif and Mau Mau Sarenco Gitaj – settled in the tourist resort of Malindi in the 1980s, where he married several times, invited numerous artist friends from Europe to join him, and promoted a lively exchange between this new Mecca of contemporary art in Kenya and the collecting scene in Europe and the USA. His network, which included the critics and curators Achille Bonito Oliva and Enrico Mascelloni as well as his colleague, the artist Armando Tanzini, had a considerable influence on the perception and reception of African, so-called authentic art in Italy.

The ripples of the Italy-Malindi connection’s influence worked their way into the creation of Kenya’s first national pavilion at the Venice Biennales of 2013 and 2015.


31 Oct 2018: Talk
Agnes Stillger – From the Hotel to the Global Art Market.
Complex interdependencies between production for export, creative exchange and cultural identity in Kenya’s art scene.

15 Nov 2018: Exhibition, Screening, Talks
Relate. Relay. Connect
Leone Contini, Mohamed Keita, Alberto Amoretti, Giovanni Hänninen, Lerato Shadi




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