ROMANZO METICCIO

In undertaking this project, I set myself a seemingly simple question: How can contemporary Italian identity be defined? The project invites a critical attitude towards the fascist legacies of the past and a careful analysis of their impact today.

In undertaking this project, I set myself a seemingly simple question: How can contemporary Italian identity be defined?

Romanzo Meticcio examines the post-colonial condition of Italy as a fundamental element of contemporary life in the Bel Paese. In my research, the prefix "post" takes on a progressive historical value. The project establishes a link between the present, the colonial past, and the intranational and international waves of migration, inviting a critical attitude towards the imperialist and fascist legacies of the past and a careful analysis of their impact on contemporary society.

The decolonisation of the Italian possessions in Africa took place after the fall of the fascist government in 1943. Somalia was an exception. It became independent in 1960. The Italian colonial campaign commenced prior to the rise of Fascism. It coincided with Italy's unification and the conquest of the south. Unlike other colonial entities like France or England, which generated significant migration from their former colonies, the Italian possessions' decolonisation resulted from the decline of the authoritarian regime. The post-colonial period in Italy has a lesser profile and a relatively unknown legacy. However, it is evident in various visible forms. The legacy of the Italian colonial period extends across various sectors, including architecture and infrastructure, education, and language. Italian culture defines a 'colony' as an overseas possession, an Italian diaspora community or a territory regained during the Fascist period. This led to the creation of the 'città di fondazione', which caused a significant internal migration. This term acts as both a mirror and an indicator of changes to cultures, geopolitics, and the environment.

The narrative created by the Italian state since its unification is based on the identification of places and people considered marginal. The suburbs, the south, minorities, second-generation Italians and the question of fascist ideology have not been openly addressed and discussed in an open public debate. It has often been concealed, denied or very often minimised. It has also been marginalised. In order to navigate this complicated and multi-layered history, I decided to adopt an interdisciplinary approach, where my photographic work establishes a dialogue with the archival material through the methodology of intersectionality. This emphasises the need to consider the different marginalised categories in their co-presence and intersection, rather than as separate entities.

The photographic medium in the 1930s was a fundamental tool to justify colonial policies based on racial segregation and to represent certain situations as marginal. Photography became a performative act of exclusion. It is important to understand who was responsible for taking these photographs, who was the intended audience, and for what reason.

The work was created to gain insight into and contextualise my family's cultural background within Italian society. I was born in Sicily and raised in Friuli. My grandmother on my mother's side is Colombian. My grandmother on my father's side is Slovenian.

The process of erasing colonial history has permeated Italian culture since the Second World War. Romanzo Meticcio aims to bring this past to light. It creates new imaginaries and cultural scenarios for the future by questioning Italian identity at its core. My research does this by focusing on the marginalised in a way that goes beyond rejection and victimisation.

My work was born from a middle space between personal experience and reflective distance. It is from a position of liminality that a gaze has been formed and an alternative vision proposed. Romanzo Meticcio points to the importance of discoursive complexity in an attempt to change the given paradigm.

In the Civil Contract of Photography, Ariella Aïsha Azoulay writes: “Fighting in the visual arena today is thus an inseparable part of any struggle in the political arena, for it is in the visual arena through and by means of images, that women and man train themselves to see, think, judge, and act.”

© Davide Degano - Image from the ROMANZO METICCIO photography project
i

Milazzo (my birthplace). Corriere della Sera (Italian national newspaper) of 1972 and the forecast for the south. Family photo in Messina 1980.

© Davide Degano - Procession. The Assumption of the Virgin Mary
i

Procession. The Assumption of the Virgin Mary

© Davide Degano - Image from the ROMANZO METICCIO photography project
i

Pordenone, council flat. This was my grandfather Giuseppe's first apartment when he moved north in search of better living conditions.

© Davide Degano - Salome & Luca
i

Salome & Luca

© Davide Degano - Image from the ROMANZO METICCIO photography project
i

Manifesto della Razza (Race Manifesto). Fascist magazine from the 1930s/40s. Article against mixed marriages. Archive photo of my great-grandmother and grandmother, last seen together in Colombia.

© Davide Degano - Imperial nostalgia
i

Imperial nostalgia

© Davide Degano - Fati & Mom
i

Fati & Mom

© Davide Degano - Detail of the Torviscosa Theatre, built as part of the Fascist "after-work" programme.
i

Detail of the Torviscosa Theatre, built as part of the Fascist "after-work" programme.

© Davide Degano - Gabriele
i

Gabriele

© Davide Degano - Friulian suburbs
i

Friulian suburbs

© Davide Degano - My uncle in Milazzo and the Lombrosian theory of the criminal
i

My uncle in Milazzo and the Lombrosian theory of the criminal

© Davide Degano - Taisha
i

Taisha

© Davide Degano - Image from the ROMANZO METICCIO photography project
i

Torviscosa, Fascist "città di fondazione", built after the reclamation of a swampy area in 1938 (reclamation carried out by Slovenian prisoners interned in the nearby Visco concentration camp).

© Davide Degano - Momo
i

Momo

© Davide Degano - Friulian suburbs, home of the Alpine troops. The Alpine troops were the first corps to be sent to colonise Eritrea.
i

Friulian suburbs, home of the Alpine troops. The Alpine troops were the first corps to be sent to colonise Eritrea.

© Davide Degano - School Handbook 1935. Subject: History of fascist culture.
i

School Handbook 1935. Subject: History of fascist culture.

© Davide Degano - I Riccardini
i

I Riccardini

© Davide Degano - Black Madonna. The cult of the Black Madonna is the most famous in Italy.
i

Black Madonna. The cult of the Black Madonna is the most famous in Italy.

© Davide Degano - Friulian suburbs. Murales
i

Friulian suburbs. Murales

© Davide Degano - Emanuele
i

Emanuele