Kathleen Bickford Berzock, The Block’s associate director of curatorial affairs, recently presented on the Block exhibition Caravans of Gold, Fragments in Time to an international audience at the Villa I Tatti, The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies in Florence, Italy.
Her talk, “A World in a Fragment: Visualizing Trans-Saharan Exchange through Object-Based Comparisons in the Exhibition Caravans of Gold,” was part of the conference “Crossroads Africa: African Engagement in the Making of Early Modernity,” organized by Ingrid Greenfield (I Tatti) and Carlo Taviani (I Tatti/German Historical Institute in Rome). The gathering on May 20 and 21 brought together art historians, archaeologists, and historians whose work contributes to a broader understanding of “how Africans played active roles in shaping global histories (c. 1300-1700) and creating transnational spaces that continue to inform the circulation of people, goods, and ideas today.”
The conference contributes to a growing scholarship that addresses misperceptions of Africa, including that the continent is a place isolated from history and that it was disconnected from important medieval and early modern networks.
Berzock explains, “It was a wonderful opportunity for scholars working in different disciplines to gather in one place to discuss pre-modern Africa as a center for cultural production and exchange. It was also incredibly meaningful to be able to present the work we are doing here at The Block to a wider audience.”
Written by Melanie Garcia Sympson, Curatorial Associate, The Block Museum of Art