Novena, the propitiation of Christmas in contemporary Naples
Project info

The Novena rite was born many centuries ago in the Mediterranean basin. It was practiced by numerous civilizations that founded their economies, marked the time and built their own knowledge system based on the rhythms of agriculture and pastoral farming.
Probably originally this rite was performed by families, consisting in nine days of mourning after the death of a loved one. With the spread of Christian religion, Novena, along with many other rituals and traditions, was reformulated and adapted to the new creed. In particular the Christmas Novena celebrating Jesus replaced the rites of propitiation of the rebirth of the sun, thus becoming part of the "regeneration rites of time." This ritual, therefore, propitiating the rebirth of life and the fertile season after a long and cold winter, in an 'agricultural' cultural scheme represented the temporariness of death and the eternal renewal of life.
As centuries went on, the ritual, though progressively evolving, has always maintained the same plant until the arrival of industrial capitalism in the second half of the 20th century.
The radical change in production systems and social relationships has revolutionised religious sensibility and the organisation of time. From that period on, time would no longer be interpreted as cyclically wavy and recurrent but as uniform and linear.
In this context, the novena rite, now unable to interpret contemporary, began to radically change, diversifying into two distinct phenomena.
On the one hand, the traditional ritual became increasingly shorter and essential, remaining relegated to the poorest and marginal layers of society that had no access to industrial civilisation. On the other hand, in the most affluent areas, it has become a tourist attraction for the sole purpose of making profit through entertainment.
In particular, this photographic project was carried out living with two bagpipers, Carlo and Mimì, following them for two months (December 2011 and December 2012), and documenting how the rite of the Christmas Novena manifest itself in Acerra, in the hinterland of Naples, one of the cities with the lowest European welfare rate.