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2.8 (De)constructing Venice. Reflection from the outside

Nowtilus. Stories from an urban lagoon in the 21st century



Abiba Coulibaly (geographer) and Ella Navot (visual anthropologist) - TBA21–Academy's Ocean Fellowship Program 2021


Available on Ocean-Archive.org and TBA21–Academy Radio (SoundCloud, Spotify, Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts)

How is Venice seen from the outside? Is it possible to deconstruct the multiple overlapping images associated with Venice? Have you ever imagined Venice as a place of alienation, and segregation? What symbols and images are conjured up for people that come from aboard?

Can we reflect on how to deconstruct political and social images of cultural representation in Venice?

In this episode, entitled “(De)constructing Venice. Reflection from the outside”, we’re going to present a very special collaboration with Abiba Coulibaly and Ella Navot, who designed and wrote the final episode of the second season of "Nowtilus", and who share their experiences in Venice as fellows of the 2021 Ocean Fellowship.

Venice is a construct. If we take the definition in its most literal sense, a construction, according to the Oxford dictionary, is ‘a thing that has been built or made’. But if we expand our interpretation of the word construction to ‘an idea or an imaginary situation’, it also provides a means by which we can explore the non-material frameworks of the city, which frequently intersect and entangle themselves with the more obvious elements of the manmade environment, resulting in the Venice we experience and imagine today. So what does it mean to deconstruct Venice? How is it possible?

Abiba Coulibaly, a geographer based in London, and Ella Navot from Tel Aviv, a visual anthropologist, will create a dialogue that will allow us to reflect upon imaginary borders, segregation, unexpected angles, the Jewish Ghetto, and a careful analysis of the Blackamoors, like the ones represented in the Monument for Giovanni Pesaro at Basilica dei Frari.

These reflections aim to stimulate a necessary revision of the surfaces of Venice, to dive deeper into various multifaceted perspectives, and to ask who exactly is behind the construction of these images, given that such an act is often imbued with a great deal of power, bias, and political implications, even at the subtlest level.

This episode presents an interview with Moulaye Niang, a Senegalese-born glassmaker based in Venice, who tells us his rich life story, along with the challenges and perspectives involved in moving from Senegal to Murano, where he learned the art of Glassmaking, combining it with the traditions of his home country.

Abiba Coulibaly and Ella Navot are two former fellows of the program of TBA21–Academy's Ocean Fellowship 2021. For the 2021 edition of the program, TBA21–Academy partnered with Artis, to support one fellow artist/researcher from Israel whose work addressed aesthetic, social, and political questions that inspired reflection and debate around oceans with an emphasis on the Mediterranean.

The episode is available in English on Ocean-Archive.org and on TBA21–Academy Radio on SoundCloud, Spotify, Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts.

“Nowtilus. Stories from an urban lagoon in the 21st century” is a podcast produced by Ocean Space, Venice, for TBA21–Academy Radio. Music by Enrico Coniglio.


Abiba Coulibaly is a recent graduate of the University of London Institute in Paris where she completed an MA in Urban History and Culture, exploring the city as an arena for social and environmental struggles, and cultivating her interest in postcolonial migration patterns beyond the Anglophone world. She is particularly interested in the intersection of aesthetics and ethics, which she enjoys exploring through the lens of cinema and the built environment.


Ella Navot holds a masters degree in Visual Anthropology from Goldsmiths, University of London. She is engaged with experimental anthropological research methods working with moving images as a process of unlearning. In her work she aims to visualize the entanglement of people, stories and places otherwise perceived as separated by concrete and imagined borders, born from a need to reimagine the future of Israel-Palestine and the region. She has researched topics around contemporary migration and has professional and activist experience supporting the struggle of African asylum seekers in Israel.

Moulaye Niang

Moulaye Niang is a Sengalese-born glassmaker based in Venice, also known as “Muranero”. He started this work after finishing attending the Abate Zanetti School of Glass on the island of Murano, where he learned various glass working technics: ranging from large sculptures with the furnace, to the smallest beads. His jewels are the product of the encounter between his African roots, his European background, and the magic atmosphere of Venice. His atelier "Collection Muranero” is based in Campo della Bragora.