In this moment Italy is living a real dark age, in culture as well as in hospitality.
More and more people are considering hate and racism as a solution for our own crisis, making of immigrants an easy target.
In Italy, migrants arrive after traveling on unstable boats across the Mediterranean Sea.
They arrive half dead. The luckiest among them.
Many others do not reach our shores, so that the Mediterranean gradually turned, over the last years, into a cemetery, burying women, men, and children.
I decided to explore the theme of migration through visual art to remember those times when ITALIANS were the migrants.
Italians have a big tradition of migrating to other places, but nevertheless, many of us are now blaming the migrants who reach our country, thus disavowing our own history.
Italy has traditionally been a place of passage and migration because of its peculiar position in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea.
Wars, domination, and cultural and commercial exchanges have made the Italian culture what it is nowadays: a mix of traditions, languages, and customs.
Its history is what makes Italy one of the richest countries in terms of art and culture.
The Italian richness comes from what each people left to us after their passage.
I want to analyze the theme of migration inspired not only from what is happening in Italy and in the Mediterranean Sea, but from what seems to be, today, a global phenomenon of intolerance and hatred towards the “OTHER”.
Regardless of your origin, and of your religious and political beliefs, the message that comes through this exploration, is one of respect towards the OTHER, celebrating the other as a fundamental part of everybody roots and culture.
I hope that everyone that now is ready to send a boat full of desperate people out at sea, will one day remember that those people has always been, and always will be, part of our cultural richness.
And I hope that, as every community in the world is becoming more and more multi ethnic, reflecting on what immigrants bring with them in terms of culture and personal experiences will be a way to facilitate and promote integration and to defeat intolerance.
In this specific historical moment, we all need this kind of reflection, and we all need to transform our reflections into an open dialogue.
Here below, you will find some examples of my work:
In Europe, migrants cross the sea on very precarious boats, paying much money to be carried to the Italian shore from other countries. Many of them die, adults as well as children, and the Mediterranean Sea is now a cemetery of bodies and stories.
With its position in the middle of the Mediterranean basin, Southern Italy is one of the first destinations for these people. Because of this, I represented their “promised land” through a typical lighthouse of the region of Apulia, Italy. To me, this painting represents a question for all of us: Is there any trace of hope?
Inspired by the true story of many children who cross the Mediterranean Sea.
MAMMA MIA DAMMI CENTO LIRE
(Mom, give me a hundred lire)
This painting was inspired by an old Italian migration song: “Mamma mia dammi cento Lire”.
Between 1800 and 1900, there were so many Italians willing to cross the ocean on very precarious ships to look for a better life in America. They had to pay so much for that, but they kept doing it, even if the risk was to pay the trip with their own life. Italians have a big tradition of migrating to other places, but nevertheless, many of them are now blaming the migrants who reach Italy, thus disavowing their own history.
With this painting, I want to remember those times when Italians were the migrants. At the same time, I want to express how awful is what the Italian and the European governments are doing against those migrants who try to reach our shores. Leaving people out at sea without a safe harbor to land is a crime against the humanity, and an offence towards our own ancestors.
“Mom, give me 100 dollars so that I can go to America”
“One hundred dollars and shoes, but to America no, no,no!
I’m afraid that if you leave, my dear child, I won’t see you again”
Her brothers at the window:
“Mom, let her go!”
“Go ahead, oh ungrateful daughter, and something will happen!”
When she was out at sea, the ship sank.
“My blood is red and fine: the sea fish will drink it.
My flesh is white and pure: the whale will eat it.
My hair is curly and beautiful, in sea water it will rot.
The advice of my mother is the whole truth, while that of my brothers is what deceived me.”
“Fisherman, you who catch the fish, go fishing for my daughter!”
Only the memory remains of her child who went away “.
“What world lies beyond that stormy sea I do not know, but every ocean has a distant shore and I shall reach it.”
Memories of a Traveler
The poem “Ithaka,” written by the poet Cavafy, is what I feel connected to this painting. It is a poem that speaks of the journey as a metaphor for life:
“As you set out for Ithaka
hope the voyage is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.
Hope the voyage is a long one.
May there be many a summer morning when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you come into harbors seen for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind—
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to gather stores of knowledge from their scholars.
Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you are destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.
Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.
And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean. ”
C.P. Cavafy, Collected Poems. Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard.
The experience of being a musician of Mediterranean music increased year by year with my knowledge of how music is a memento of migration throughout history. Mediterranean countries, in fact, are traditionally places of passage. Wars, dominations, cultural and commercial exchanges made these countries a mix of cultures, traditions, languages, and customs. It is very common to find the same songs all around the Mediterranean in different countries. Maybe the words are different, but the melody is unmistakable. Each country claims those songs to be their own, but it is impossible to declare to whom their origin really belongs. Music highlights the message that the identity of every single nation is variegated, and that it organically changes with time in a never-ending process, as people move away from their home. Music is a universal language that crosses the borders and points the gaze inside towards the soul.
In this painting, I depicted a musical instrument called “doumbek” (or “darabuka”), because it is one of the most representative musical instruments from the perspective of migration. In fact, we can find it in many different regions, ranging from North Africa to the Middle East and Eastern Europe.
The wanderer walks through the streets of the city. He is everywhere, invisible. Silently, he walks and dreams. However, sometimes he screams so loudly that nobody is able to hear his voice. The wanderer yells his own bitter poetry. He tells about things that are so far and so close at the same time, so unreal but true. Things that everybody sees but with the blind eyes of oblivion.
This painting, inspired by a North Carolina oak, was born in a moment when I really felt the tension between two cultures and two homes. The colors and the lines are vibrant and full of tension. Everything is moving here and there.
I painted it in a stream of consciousness, trying to work it as an automatism. When the painting was done, I found out that my tree was not a North Carolina oak at all. It came out as a mix of an oak and an olive tree, the symbol of my home.