THE FASTING WOMAN AGAINST MAFIA
Uffizi Gallery, Florence
An exhibition of photographs by
In the summer of 1992, following the carnage at Capaci that slew judge Giovanni Falcone, his wife Francesca Morvillo and police officers Rocco Dicillo, Antonio Montinaro and Vito Schifani, and the blast in Via D'Amelio in which judge Paolo Borsellino and his five bodyguards Agostino Catalano, Emanuela Loi, Vincenzo Li Muli, Walter Eddie Cosina and Claudio Traina lost their lives, a group of women in Palermo felt the need to do something, to react in some way. Their highly symbolic action took the shape of a hunger strike in the main square of the city, an act which still comes across as courageous even today. Twenty-two years on, those women, some of whom were no more than girls at the time, have come together again in the work of Francesco Francaviglia, on display in the former church of San Pier Scheraggio in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence starting Monday 13 October.
Some of the faces are well known: Pina Maisano Grassi, the wife of Libero Grassi, a businessman slain for daring to rebel against the protection racket; Simona Mafai, a veteran floor leader of the Italian Communist Party on the city council; photographer Letizia Battaglia; Maria Maniscalco, the former mayor of San Giuseppe Jato; Michela Buscemi, famous for bringing civil action in the maxi-trial in 1985 after her two brothers were murdered; Luisa Morgantini, a former Deputy Speaker of the European Parliament; and singer Giovanna Marini, who came from Rome to take part in the initiative promoted by the women of Palermo. Others are portraits of women who continued to pursue their resistance in a school classroom, in an office in the Sicilian Regional Authority building, or in Palermo's problem neighbourhood, the ZEN: Bice Salatiello, Virginia Dessy and Anna Puglisi.
As Cristina Acidini points out: "While San Pier Scheraggio is an integral part of the complex built by Vasari, in a sense this important exhibition is going to restore to it its medieval function as a forum in the political and civic debate."
"The faces portrayed by Francesco Francaviglia are those of courageous women who openly took sides twenty years ago, heedless of evil (including of the harm that might befall them in retaliation), against the merciless and brutal crime that bloodied that summer (and that continues to bloody and to corrupt our world even today). The passage of time may have lined those faces but, to quote Shakespeare, it has had no power on their beauty, the beauty of an age-old pride. These women's faces have inevitably changed, but for that very reason they still bear witness to their undaunted courage, to their untamed spirit of rebellion and to their inflexible determination to resist." Those are the words with which Uffizi Gallery Director Antonio Natali introduces the exhibition.
"It is good to behold these faces again, – writes Senate Speaker Pietro Grasso – their gazes challenging silence and fear. Only those who feel in all conscience that they have done everything in their power to break the silence and the complicity, only those who feel that they have made their contribution, however large or small, to the search for truth and justice, to educating the younger generations to a sense of responsibility, and to spreading legality as a common ethic will be able to look at these photographs without having to lower their gaze in shame."
The exhibition of photographs, which will be moving from the Uffizi to the Centro Italiano per la Fotografia d'Autore in Bibbiena, is curated by Tiziana Faraoni, an editor of photography with L'Espresso, and accompanied by an audio-project devised by Giuditta Perriera that allows the visitor to rediscover the voices of the past through snippets of newsreel, interviews with Falcone and Borsellino, and the testimonials of the Mafiosi turned state's witness who triggered the explosions by remote control.
These portraits appear once again to be asking questions of us, and seeking answers. As Franca Imbergano, a magistrate with the National Anti-Mafia Prosecutor's Office, put it so clearly: "Even though all these years have gone by since the terrible events of 1992 in Palermo and those of 1993 in Florence, Rome and Milan, the faces of the women who staged the hunger strike emerge once again, marked by the passage of time yet still glowing with civic passion... Seeing those faces again today in the photographs of Francesco Francaviglia allows us to grasp the full horror, the grief and pain of those dreadful events, and to realise just to what extent the truth surrounding that carnage is still, despite everything, shrouded in mystery... This trail of blood did not break off in the summer of 1992 in Sicily; it crept up the peninsula and struck at the very symbols of the country's life in its determination to sow terror..."
The Uffizi Gallery celebrates this photography work with this exhibition comprising thirty-one portraits: "I chose Rita Borsellino's face to close the catalogue because it is the face of all the women who wept in despair yet continued to fight in that summer of '92", explained Francesco Francaviglia who, at the invitation of the Rome International Festival of Photography, will be showing a preview of his collection of portraits of Italian Poets at the Museo Macro concurrently with the exhibition in Florence.
Offering excellent material for triggering a debate on roles and responsibilities today, the catalogue, edited by Marco Delogu and published by Postcart, includes essays and contributions from: Pietro Grasso, Speaker of the Italian Senate; Leoluca Orlando, Mayor of Palermo; Franca Imbergamo, a magistrate with the National Anti-Mafia Prosecutor's Office; Antonio Natali, Director of the Uffizi Gallery; Letizia Battaglia, a photographer; and Salvo Palazzolo, a journalist with La Repubblica; along with a number of testimonials from the women portrayed in the photographs.