Sicilian cinematography, a “combination of Sicily and violence”

Sicilian cinematography, a “combination of Sicily and violence” 900 600 Dimora delle Balze


Sicilian cinematography, a “combination of Sicily and violence”.

January 31, Palazzolo Acreide

Cinema is interested in Sicily because Sicily is Cinema” said Leonardo Sciascia.
Born as an instrument of entertainment and artistic expression capable of building the image and identity of the territory of which it narrates, in Sicily it becomes an emblematic case that has contributed to the creation of an unprecedented imagery of the island and of which the art week could not do without. Sicily with its traditions and its millenary history becomes the cradle of cinematography for many Italian directors and not only. From Visconti to Coppola, from Tornatore to Soderbergh – there are many films that portray the most famous places of the island and through them we can discover an unseen and majestic Sicily.
From love stories to “peculiar traits that have become icons of the island itself, such as backwardness, misery, violence”, the Sicilian filmography is among the widest of the Italian regions, because it is capable of narrating the vices and virtues of a characteristic people and territory, made of history, folklore, dialect and breathtaking landscapes.
From “La terra trema” (1948), to “Il Gattopardo” (1958), then “Il Padrino” (1972) and again “Storia di una capinera”, “Il giorno della civetta”, “Malèna”, the Island becomes the fulcrum of stories capable of touching the emotional chords of its audience, involving not only cinema, but also literature itself: we are talking about two expressive forms often in symbiosis.
One of the cases worthy of note is certainly the series
From the binomial “Sicily and violence”, which for many years has been able to portray all the stereotypes that have plagued the Island, to “Il commissario Montalbano” taken from the novels of Andrea Camilleri, which describes another face of the Island, that of an honorable society, made up of honest men, who fight injustice; or “Nuovo Cinema Paradiso”, the film by Giuseppe Tornatore that won the Oscar for best foreign film, which tells of an unprecedented land, even more beautiful: Of a Sicily that is not only mafia.

Sicilian literature: historical heritage and cultural patrimony

Sicilian literature: historical heritage and cultural patrimony 908 675 Dimora delle Balze


Sicilian literature: historical heritage and cultural patrimony

January 27, Agrigento

“Every writer tells about the time he lives. Sicilian writers, all linked by a long tradition, have made the island the protagonist of their works, each one telling one of the hundred Sicilies”.

Verga, Pirandello, De Roberto and Tomasi, and then Sciascia, Consolo, Bufalino and Camilleri, thanks to them and to many others no longer remembered as they should be – I am thinking, for example, of Maria Messina, Antonio Russello and Antonio Castelli – Sicily has become the object of their thought and, of course, everything that revolves around the island, starting from its history, traditions and folklore. Being Sicilian has been very influential in literature.

“Their culture still lives today and influences us, just think of all the times we say, even to justify our behaviors, our failings and our mistakes: this is Pirandellian or this is Sciascian or, even worse, “change everything to change nothing”, quoting the pages of the eternal “Leopard”.

Each writer is then different from the other. The civil commitment that is in Leonardo Sciascia is not found in Gesualdo Bufalino, who is more romantic. And Andrea Camilleri, who taught us to look at a different Sicily from that of “Giorno della civetta”: far from the stereotypes linked to his land, his Montalbano remains in Sicily, reacts, has his successes, obtains justice. Far, far from Verga, who gives his characters no hope, no one can improve their social condition.
However, Sicily without these voices would certainly be very different. Indeed, it would not be Sicily.

This tradition of writers, this line that unites them all, has been essential in the history of the island and its inhabitants: it has played a significant role for centuries in consolidating the appearance of the vices and virtues of Sicilianity promoted as a cultural deposit of the island. An example is the famous novel “Il Gattopardo” (The Leopard) by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, which had an extraordinary success and from which Luchino Visconti made the famous movie. And not only that, the same literature has contributed to the redemption of the dialect that many up to Camilleri were reluctant to introduce in the pages of their stories.

Andrea Camilleri marks a return, for the general public of readers, to the roots of the language as a tradition not to be lost, even demonstrating that it can be understood even in the northern regions. He even invents a language, that of Vigata, as opposed to the poet Nino De Vita who instead preserves and digs into the roots of a language restricted to a district of Marsala.

Today, things have changed a bit from that generation. “We have writers and especially women writers of great value. I’m thinking of Nadia Terranova, who has roots in the land and fabulous sea of Colapesce, Simonetta Agnello Hornby, Giuseppina Torregrossa, Evelina Santangelo, Stefania Auci.” They are telling us a different face of Sicily. And then there are authors such as Santo Piazzese and Roberto Alajmo, and Gaetano Savatteri, impregnated by the pages of Sciascia and Camilleri, but autonomous in telling with his detective series Makari, a beautiful and welcoming Sicily, modern and in step with the times. Bringing it back, in a sense, to everyday life, to the time we live. “With Sicily, of course, always the protagonist”.

Credit to: Silvio Picone, consulente della “Strada degli scrittori”

Religion and Folklore: a ritual lived of a heartfelt religiosity

Religion and Folklore: a ritual lived of a heartfelt religiosity 866 600 Dimora delle Balze


Religion and Folklore: a ritual lived of a heartfelt religiosity

January 23, Palazzolo Acreide

“Saint Paul has been my reference since I was a child. For me, he means country, he means family. For those who believe, the Saint becomes a pater familias: the respect is not only towards an Evangelical Saint of the acts of the apostles but it is like a family member”.

Religion and Folklore are typical expressions of Sicilian people, whose manifestation in time remains unchanged. What changes are the needs of the people who interact with the Saint. If a hundred years ago the social class was low and people prayed for a need to survive, today it is not difficult to find a professor or a doctor who dresses the sack of St. Agatha.

“It’s not about parades, it’s not a mystification, it’s a way of experiencing the country and relating to religiosity.” It is an affirmation of the popular identity that recognizes itself in the Saint and in the collective ritual that it espouses. “On the one hand, there is the devotee who participates to share a manifestation of religiosity and then there is the person who witnesses the expression of a community.”

This is a value of popular culture passed down from father to son, with a historical and local identification. For the feast of St. Paul in Palazzo Acreide, for example, we find both a rite of exaltation and an act of gratification, as for “U giro ro pani”, that is a small cart full of “Cuddure” that is towed through the streets of the country, then blessed and sold, and the bare children who are laid in front of the Saint, as a sign of devotion. However, even if each place has its own particularities, in each of them we can find some common characteristics, such as the sacrifice and the manifestation of affection: “a rite lived of a felt religiosity”.

Photo credits to: Paolo Gallo

The Storyteller: a man of other times recognized internationally

The Storyteller: a man of other times recognized internationally 789 600 Dimora delle Balze


The Storyteller: a man of other times recognized internationally

January 19, Paternò

“That of the Storyteller was a sacrificial job. You had to understand society, its problems, and rework a simple communication for an uneducated people”.

The Cantastorie (Storyteller) of the past was not a well-liked figure, it was a man injured in battle, paralytic, who in order to survive went around the squares telling, through the metric, popular poetic compositions of real events, such as social crimes, honor, claim … but also dramatic songs, satires and ballads, all aimed at entertaining his audience – a simple audience, composed mostly of farmers and artisans.

Over time, his figure evolves. For many it became a vocation that required much study and interpretation, because only through verses, body and facial gestures, and accompanied by the guitar or another musical instrument, was it possible to convey a clear message. An example is the figure of Ciccio Busacca, Cantastorie paternese, emblem of national and international popular culture, known for his ability to get to anyone.

After the First World War, the popular song becomes more than ever the manifestation of the sentiment of the people, a scream of those who for generations had suffered only abuse from the wealthiest classes. So the Cantastorie began to lash out against the politician, the exploitative landlord, taxes and the harsh conditions of peasant life.

“With the advent of television, everything changes.” If before the Cantastorie were listened to for more than 2 hours by different audiences, from the youngest to the over seventy, today the ballads become shorter and not only that, they must be researched and meaningful. “Today, young people are approaching the greats of yesterday” and only if studied in a modern key, therefore with the issues of today’s society, can they continue to live through a new audience.

Credit to: Associazione culturale Cantastorie Busacca

The Sicilian cart between history, passion and sacrifices

The Sicilian cart between history, passion and sacrifices 1203 800 Dimora delle Balze


The Sicilian cart between history, passion and sacrifices

January 15, Ragusa Ibla

“The old masters were jealous of their craft and many times it was difficult to extrapolate the exact formula, but with sacrifice and patience you learned”.

The Sicilian cart is an ancient tradition, dating back to the early 1800s, when the carters – proud travelers – earned their living by transporting goods on behalf of others. It was the profession of the people, born in a period of misery, made of sacrifices and dedication.

The Sicilian cart is unique in its kind. Once it was an essential asset of a Sicilian man and from a simple traction cart with a coarse shape, over the years it took on a more refined appearance, able to attract the gaze of passers-by. For over 150 years it has fascinated young people and housewives who rush to the windows at every step.

“The art imprinted on the carts is not mine by chance, it is a study of professional artisans for generations, who have managed to get the right balance between bright colors and iconography. It is the true pride of the carter, who like a hero faced the daily bad weather traveling long distances”.

The art of painting carts, as well as their construction was passed down by word of mouth. “We were lucky enough to learn from the last master,” says Damiano Rotella, who along with Biagio Castilletti are the last artisans, founders of Cinabro Carrettieri. “We started out as garzoni in Domenico Di Mauro’s workshop,” “the mastro would test you and if you had potential you could work with him.”

Today all the old masters  have passed away, but “the art of the cart still exists,” so much so that even Dolce and Gabbana choose to use its safe formula in their creations “we just have to be careful that it doesn’t pollute.”

Credit to : Cinabro Carrettieri

The Sicilian tarantella as an expression of the soul

The Sicilian tarantella as an expression of the soul 800 533 Dimora delle Balze


The Sicilian tarantella as an expression of the soul

Janaury 11, Acireale

“The tarantella is not something ingrained, as is often thought. It was born during the period of Fascism for a specific need, that of equipping itself with specific costumes and performances, which have little to do with traditional dance”.

The tarantella – whose name derives from the bite of the tarantula and which, by conception, triggered a frenetic dance in those who were bitten – was an ancient choreographic ritual of Southern Italy. It was born as the dance of the people, peasants and shepherds. Originally it was called U ballettu, even though it had different meanings according to the area where it was practiced. Its function was to bring people together, create harmony among them and rebalance what could be the conflicts within the village.

There was no stage, no frontal arrangement or steps to follow. It was an expression of the soul of the dancer, who followed 2 or 3 basic steps that could vary from one area to another. The foot was tapped in time and clever use was made of space and codified figures.

The dancers danced in pairs, while the others were arranged in a circle. U mastru i ballu introduced two people and then the others joined in. What emerged was the individuality, the difference in style, the interpretation, everyone demonstrated their own expressive characteristics.

“Today our dance is influenced by the Calabrian one that is much faster and is played by a different tambourine”, Margherita Badala tells us – Dancer, Teacher of the Feldenkrais Method, Danzaterapeuta and Researcher of Traditional Dances of Southern Italy. “Of course I’m sorry, but these are processes you can’t interfere against.”

Credit to: Margherita Badalà

The art of wicker weaving: Sicilian baskets

The art of wicker weaving: Sicilian baskets 1221 826 Dimora delle Balze


The art of wicker weaving

January 07 , Palazzolo Acreide

The art of weaving is a practice which brings with it centuries of history and ancient natural traditions. Pride of local handicraft, art weaving is a complex art which joins manual ability with the knowledge of ancient techniques learned since childhood and then handed down from father to son, from generation to generation. Today there are only a few masters of weaving left that arecapable of making these elegant and refined baskets whose shape vary, as well as the colorful inserts and decorations that depict local customs and traditions.

Olive twigs, reeds, rush, elm, wicker and brooms are the most used weaving materials in this Sicilian rural tradition. Pliers, scissors, knife and awl are instead the tools used by traditional masters during the realization of these handicraft works, such as u Panaru, a particular Sicilian basket made of wicker and cane.

In Sicily, every basket made by hand has a characteristic name in dialect, such as cufinedda, cartedde, cannizzi, there are also many traditional objects which can be made through the art of weaving, such as chairs, tools, hats, beater, bags and various containers.

It is an ancient virtuosity of hands that move skillfully weaving one branch after another. In times gone by it was a common skill, but for a few it became an expression of the soul of those who were able to create true works of art, with skill and delicacy.

The work of the puppets: the greatest phenomenon that has ever crossed the island

The work of the puppets: the greatest phenomenon that has ever crossed the island 907 600 Dimora delle Balze


The work of the puppets

3 January, Palazzolo Acreide

“Our puppets have joy in their faces, malice and sadness, they reconstruct the whole world that the puppeteer needs”.
The Sicilian puppet opera is one of the greatest phenomena that has ever crossed the island. It first appeared in Rome, then in Naples, but it was in Sicily where it took root, in order to respond to the needs of the poorer classes, who after a long day’s work “became heroes for a few hours”, eliminating that social distance so felt with the bourgeoisie.
The work of the puppets is nothing but the representation of the myth, the chivalrous one, which in a continuous struggle between good and evil, tells a tradition that changes according to the needs of the public to which it speaks. Puppets and puppeteers in a theatrical unicum adapt their stories to the social context in which they are, transmitting codes, vocal and gestural.
“The shadow giants that are projected behind the puppets” vary from one area to another, in Palermo, for example, there are 3 people who lead the show, all men, in Catania there are 10 or 12 and also include female voices.
The F.lli Napoli – the last family of puppeteers in the area of Catania and active since 1921 – have reached the fifth generation of puppeteers and dedicate themselves both to the realization of the puppets, as professional artisans of the tradition (from the shaping to the sculpture of the heads), and to the execution of the show in highly structured theatrical works (from the cultural deepening to the elaboration of the texts).
Their commitment is to share a centuries-old history and through the youngest to keep alive a tradition that “belongs to the Sicilian culture”.

Credit to : Fratelli Napoli