Romanzo Meticcio

by Davide Degano

In carrying out this project, the author asked himself a seemingly simple question: 
How can contemporary Italian identity be defined?
Romanzo Meticcio studies the Italian postcolonial condition as a fundamental element of the contemporary life of the Bel Paese. In his research, the prefix “post” takes on a progressive historical value. It creates a connection between the present, the colonial past, and the intra-national and international migratory waves inviting a critical attitude toward the imperialistic and fascist legacy of the past and a careful analysis of the effects on today’s society.
The decolonization of Italian possessions in Africa occurred after the fall of the fascist government in 1943. Somalia was an exception. It gained independence in 1960. Unlike other colonial powers, such as France or England, which generated large migratory flows from the former colonies, the decolonization of Italian possessions occurred due to the weakening of the dictatorship. The post-colonial era in Italy appears less recognizable and still little known. Yet, numerous visible traces testify to this legacy. The architecture, the infrastructure, and the education, starting with the use of the term “colony” that in Italian culture takes on multiple meanings. It refers to overseas possessions, the Italian communities of emigrants abroad, and the lands reclaimed during the fascism period that gave birth to the so-called città di fondazione that caused a massive internal migration. It is a term that, like a prism, reflects the evolution of cultures and geopolitical and environmental changes.
The narrative created by the Italian State, since its unity, is based upon the identification of places and people considered marginal. The suburbs, the South, the minorities, and second-generation Italians, and the question of fascist ideology have never been addressed and resolved in an open public debate. It has often been veiled, denied, or very often minimized. Precisely also placed on the margins. To navigate this complicated and layered history, he decided to use an interdisciplinary approach where his photographic work establishes a dialogue with archival material through the intersectionality methodology, emphasizing the need to consider the different marginalized categories in their co-presence and intersection rather than separate entities.
The photographic medium in the 1930s was a fundamental tool to justify the colonial policies based on racial segregation and to represent certain situations as marginal. Photographs became a performative act of exclusion. Who photographed these realities? What audience was it aimed at? And for what reason?
The work comes from the need to understand and contextualize his family’s cultural background within Italian society. He was born in Sicily and grew up in Friuli. His grandmother on his mother’s side is Colombian. His grandmother on his father’s side is Slovenian.
The process of removing colonial history has pervaded Italian culture since the Second World War. Romanzo Meticcio wants to bring this past to light. It creates new imaginaries and cultural scenarios for the future by questioning Italian identity to its core.  His research does it by placing at the center what is marginalized in ways that go beyond rejection and victimization. The individuals featured in this project are all part of his extended family, including relatives and close friends. His goal is to create a collaborative project where my subjects could challenge the established narrative. Often, people from diverse cultural backgrounds are expected to conform to certain ideals to prove their belonging to a particular country or culture. However, in his project, their performance in front of the camera becomes an act of self-representation, where their multicultural background represents an added value rather than an element to justify.