Senam Okudzeto and Portes Orange (BHMF)

By Sarah Singh, NYU Florence student

‘Black History Month Florence’ (BHMF-) is a new cultural initiative which takes place during the month of February and continues through the 4th of March.  BHMF seeks to pay homage to the rich cultural history of the African Diaspora in Florence through an examination of important past events and a celebration of contemporary culture.

In addition to various cultural events that place throughout the month, visitors have the opportunity to meet special guests.  Last Friday NYU students had an opportunity to share an evening with Senam Okudzeto at Il Museo Marino Marini.  Okudzeto was introduced by art curator Leonardo Bigazzi, who briefly highlighted her extensive resume, speaking about her work as an artist, scholar and professor.  Okudzeto has taught and displayed her pieces throughout Europe, Africa, and the United States, spending time as a guest lecturer at NYU’s Accra campus.  During this informal discussion, Okudzeto spoke about one of her most celebrated art works, Portes Orange an international exhibition which was displayed as a solo piece at PS1 in New York, NY.  Additionally, she discussed her popular works Capitalism and Schizophrenia : Library and Long Distance Lover.

ps10214070350Okudzeto, Senam. Portes Orange 2005-2007. PS1, New York, NY.

Okudzeto spoke about her inspiration for Portes Oranges, describing a return trip she had made to Ghana, one of the nations comprising her borderless identity.  During her stay she realized that her past routine activity of strolling amongst orange vendors had since been revolutionized.  The experience of walking amongst rows of women that were carefully peeling and selling oranges, which were then sold as individual units, had been replaced by oranges resting on an iron apparatus made of used machinery.  These display stands were what transformed the once-familiar experience into something entirely new to Okudzeto.  These women had created their own “independent feminist economy” in their monopolization of the ability to craft and utilize these iron stands.  These apparatuses were physical manifestations of their livelihoods, and Okudzeto felt that the trophies of citrus treats held a significance beyond objects of display in their metaphoric representation of these women’s daily lives and method of sustenance.  These stands left a lasting impression on Okudzeto and led to the creation of Portes Oranges.

View photographs from the event and keep up to date with further BHMF events here

More on Senam Okudzeto’s biography and gallery exhibitions here