About the Artwork
This artwork is made up of 38 separate pages from an old magazine called Rivista Coloniale. This magazine was published in Italy from 1906 to 1943. Dawit L. Petros selected parts of the covers, dividers, or contents pages from these magazines to reproduce as prints. Most of these are displayed in groups on the walls, though four are displayed on a table to mimic how you would read a magazine. Rivista Coloniale was meant to encourage Italians to move to the countries Italy was occupying such as Eritrea in Africa.
This artwork appears in an exhibition called Spazio Disponibile, which is Italian for “available space.” Magazines like Rivista Coloniale often had blank pages which were “available spaces” that could be bought for advertisements. The title also shows us how colonizers often see other countries as space they can take over and use. They forget people already living in these countries and the effects that colonization will have on their lives.
These prints are displayed in chronological order (from earliest to latest). There is one print for each of the 38 years that this magazine was published. Since there were some years of magazines that Petros couldn’t find copies of, he included blank pages as their placeholders. Dawit L. Petros removed most of the text from these pages and pulled out important images and graphics for us to think about. The changes in their designs over time show the changing values and objectives of the Italian government.
Dawit L. Petros’ artwork is strongly tied to historical research. He often works with archival objects and documents (things that have been stored and preserved to keep track of our histories). He makes changes to those archival objects and displays them in new ways to help the viewer re-think the histories those objects hold.
About the Artist
Dawit L. Petros was born in Eritrea, but has lived in many places including Ethiopia, Kenya, and Canada. He uses his own experiences with colonialism and migration to inform his artworks. His art brings us to an understanding that exists between nationalities and locations.
Three of the main themes Dawit L. Petros artworks address are colonization, migration, and modernism. His works encourage us to think about history through a new lens- one that doesn’t put European and colonial views first. In 2015 Dawit L. Petros and Heba Y. Amin founded the Black Athena Collective. They create artworks and run workshops that address these same ideas. Their work encourages us to think about landscapes, people, and images from a perspective of movement and change rather than being stuck in a single location or version of history.
Dawit L. Petros has a Bachelor of Fine Arts in History from the University of Saskatchewan, a Master’s in Visual Art from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University, a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography from Concordia University, and has completed the Whitney Independent Study Program in New York. He has exhibited artworks internationally and has been awarded many prizes for his artworks. More information on these achievements can be found on his website: Dawit L. Petros (dawitlpetros.com).
- Colonization is when one country or group of people tries to take over another country or group of people. It often includes trying to remove or push out the original people living in a place. This can include trying to physically remove the original group of people. It can also include trying to change their ways of life and thinking to fit with those of the colonizing group of people. Colonization has huge effects on people that last many generations.
- Migration is when people move from one place to another to live there.
- Modernism is both an art style and a way of thinking. It was popular around the late 1800’s to mid 1900’s (at the same time as Italy was trying to colonize East Africa). Modernism favours new technologies, modern city life, and sometimes also industry or money-making practices. In the visual art world, modernism leaned towards more abstract images, ones that didn’t look exactly like real life. For a more in-depth dive into the big idea of modernism, we recommend this resource by the Tate Galleries: Modernism – Art Term | Tate
Things to Think About
- Looking at these magazine covers laid out in chronological order, what changes do you see? What ideas do you think lead to those design changes?
- We often talk about colonization in Canada. But did you know that colonization happens all over the world, such as Italy trying to colonize East Africa in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s? Where else has colonization happened? How can colonization look different throughout history?
- What ongoing effects could colonization have on people, even if the colonizers have left?
Make a magazine cover to document this year in your life, telling people in the future about your experiences today.
Dawit L. Petros’ artwork often involves working with historical documents and re-thinking the stories they tell. Make a magazine cover to document this year in your life, telling people in the future about your experiences today.
- Pencil, eraser, and sharpener
- Optional materials: collaging materials (old magazines, calendars, family photos, etc.), scissors, glue sticks, stamps and ink pads, stencils, rulers, or stickers.
- Spend some time thinking about your life this past year. Here are some guiding questions that could help:
- Where have you lived or travelled to this year?
- What matters most to you right now? What are your values?
- Who is the most important person in your life right now?
- What has happened in your life this year?
- How have you grown or changed from past years?
- What do you think might happen during the rest of this year?
- Imagine that there was a magazine about your life. Plan out the cover of this year’s issue. We recommend lightly drawing in pencil before colouring it in with marker. You can also add details using collaged images, stencils, and stamps. Some things to think about:
- Will you have a big picture on your magazine cover to represent your year? What will it be a picture of?
- Do you want to have any symbols or shapes repeated on your cover? Stencils and stamps can help with this.
- Do you want words on your magazine cover, or do you want to leave them off like Dawit L. Petros did? If you are using words, you might want to give your magazine a title, and write some titles for stories that are found in your magazine.
- What colours are you going to use on your magazine cover? How do they represent you and your life this year?
- Who do you think would read your magazine? How will you get their attention?
This activity could be turned into a digital design project. You could mockup your magazine cover using any design software you have access to.