28-09-2019 by Freddie del Curatolo
Genoa like Mombasa? It's not a provocation or even a too risky similarity, especially if you consider that both the Italian and Kenyan seaside towns have an old town.
Maddalena Stefanelli, aka Leni Frau, has always been convinced of this and has been photographing "out of passion and also a bit by profession" as she likes to call herself and for eight years now "eye" of malindikenya.net.
Next Saturday, October 5 at 5:30 p.m., in the presence of the Italian Ambassador to Kenya Alberto Pieri, Leni inaugurates his solo show entitled "Zeinab-Zena, sea queens heritage twins" in the historic and prestigious space inside Fort Jesus in Mombasa, with the subtitle "Similitudini e Contrasti" (Similarities and Contrasts) in Italian. The exhibition will remain visible throughout the month of October.
The exhibition was commissioned by the Italian Cultural Institute of Nairobi as part of the program "Italy Cultures Africa" with the collaboration of the National Museums of Kenya and the patronage of the City of Genoa.
It is about thirty shots that highlight not only certain aspects that unite the two cities, but also that confuse the viewer who will wonder which were photographed in the capital of Liguria and the ancient Maritime Republic, and which in the city island that was the first landing in Kenya of the peoples who sailed the Indian Ocean.
This is what you can read from the presentation:
Zeinab, the precious beauty.
The meaning of this Arabic name is the first link that jumps to the eye, or rather to the ear, looking for a similarity between the maritime cities, ports of Genoa and Mombasa. From Zeinab, the Precious, to Zena (in Ligurian dialect), the Superb.
But there are other connections between the Italian and Kenyan most important ports: both protected and conquered by the sea, both destroyed and rebuilt (Genoa by the army of Hannibal, Mombasa by the Portuguese conquerors) and equally willing to welcome, trade, the temptation to colonize and inevitably to be colonized.
Two multi-ethnic cities, specularly captivated by the Islamic-Christian religious dichotomy.
In the ancient corners that bear the same name (“Città Vecchia” of Genova sounds like “Old Town” for Mombasa) you will find similar places and stories where the trade of everything is mixed with the ancestral constant rhythm of sea life, scents and characters as the different people who crowd them.
Places where progress tries to penetrate but almost always remains at the margins or comes with respect, expanding into other streets and neighborhoods, adding contrasts to the many similarities and erasing the obvious and inevitable differences.
Lanes, balconies, historic buildings next to modern ones, parabolic antennas and hanging clothes, wide busy streets and secret passages, market stalls and shops, with their characters and details.
In the photographs of Maddalena Stefanelli (a.k.a. Leni Frau), a profound connoisseur of the two realities, the gaze enters into these nuances to the point of merging, losing itself and finding the way in a single reality that, taking from the past and from history, offers a socio-geographical look at the present, useful for reading and hypothesizing its future.
by Freddie del Curatolo
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