Genoa, an exhibition on Italian migrants in the U.S. at Galata Museo del Mare

Mar 15, 2024 816

The Galata Museo del Mare in Genoa presents from March 14 to April 14, 2024, Giovanni Cerri's exhibition "L'Italia che partiva. Via mare verso l'America," bringing attention back to one of the most pregnant social and cultural phenomena of Italian history, which saw between 1876 and 1925 more than six million Italians leave their country to reach the United States.

An exhibition experience that promises to touch the chords of collective memory, a moving black-and-white tribute to all the Italians who emigrated to the American continent between the late 19th century and the first decades of the 20th century.

Curated by art historian Barbara Vincenzi and supported by the Museo Italo Americano of San Francisco, the exhibition traces the stories of men and women of all ages and sexes who, driven by the hope of a better life, embarked on grueling transoceanic voyages to America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, starting from the four authorized ports of embarkation in Genoa, Naples, Palermo and Messina.

Poor, humble people, such as laborers, workers, caregivers, porters, shoe shiners, and street vendors, embarked well aware that many of them would never return to their homeland.

Sea voyages on sailing ships or steamships that lasted from three to five weeks, made even more strenuous by the overcrowding and sanitary conditions of the rooms where emigrants spent the entire crossing; places that favored the rapid spread of disease, where breathing was almost impossible with the air filled with the smoke and fumes from the machines, and the beds consisted of rippling, foul-smelling straw sacks placed in cramped wooden bunks, putting a strain on the physical condition of passengers who, in many cases, were poor even before departure.

Writes Matteo Collura in his text in the catalog, "Just as when I read Sull'oceano by Edmondo De Amicis, the cruel epic of emigration took shape in my imagination, in previewing these works, here are the images that coincide with the visual idea that, fascinated by that reading, I had developed about the exodus at sea of our emigrants. This is because - and I am stating something obvious for those who have practice in literature - the written page is the one that comes closest to pictorial art."

Through a selection of twenty evocative works, all dated 2023, created in mixed media on canvas or panel and of which two are representative of the cities of Genoa (the harbor) and San Francisco (the Golden Gate), Giovanni Cerri explores the collective memory of an era characterized by profound social and cultural transformations.

Finally, the exhibition also pays tribute to three emblematic figures linked to Italian emigration: Ferdinando Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti (Nick and Bart), the two Italian activists and anarchists who emigrated to the United States (the former a worker in a shoe factory, the latter a fish peddler) who in 1927 were sentenced to the electric chair for the murder of an accountant and a guard at the "Slater and Morrill" shoe factory in South Braintree in the state of Massachusetts, only to be acquitted fifty years later by Governor Michael Dukakis; George Moscone, the progressive, Ligurian-born San Francisco mayor and civil rights advocate killed in 1978 along with activist Harvey Milk by a former city councilman.

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