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20 Jan, 2018 09:53

‘Black Jesus’: Virgin Mary cradles refugee in Italian artwork (VIDEO)

‘Black Jesus’: Virgin Mary cradles refugee in Italian artwork (VIDEO)

An art exhibition showing the Virgin Mary cradling a Nigerian refugee in her arms opened in a Milan gallery on Thursday. The exhibition is a reimagining of renaissance master Michelangelo's sculpture ‘ La Pietà’.

In the original work, completed by Michelangelo at the end of the 15th Century, the Virgin Mary holds the body of Jesus in her arms, following his crucifixion by the Romans. This replica, by artist Fabio Viale, shows Mary not with Christ in her lap, but Nigerian refugee ‘Lucky Hei’ in his place.

“Lucky Hei is the focus of the exhibition. He's a young migrant from Nigeria and he's Christian. I've met him in Turin in a refuge centre. He understood my project and decided to pose for this photo. It's very evocative,” the artist explains.

The image of the “black Christ” was widely shared on Italian social media, and scores of people attended the exhibition opening on Thursday.

While the original marble masterpiece is housed in St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City, Viale’s work is on display at Milan’s Poggiali gallery until the end of March. It is not the first time in recent months that Jesus has been depicted as a migrant in Italy.

In December a nativity scene, in which the Virgin Mary and infant Jesus were depicted as migrants in an inflatable dinghy, triggered outrage from a local bishop.

READ MORE: Migrant Jesus in inflatable crib? Italian Bishop slams unconventional Nativity scene (PHOTOS)

The crib was was the brainchild of the town’s left wing Mayor Stefano Sermenghi, who wanted the installation in Piazza Zapelloni to pay homage to the dangers faced by migrants who attempt to get into Europe by crossing the Mediterranean in small boats.