Regina di fiori e di perle – chiesa di Giorgis

Mahlet, per esaudire la richiesta di Yacob, va alla chiesa di Giorgis per pregare.  Forse non riesce perché le tradizioni della sua terra sono state offuscate nella sua mente da quando vive in Italia.  La chiesa è un posto quasi “magico” e il vecchio eremita Abba Chereka è molto misterioso. L’eremita riconosce dai vestiti di Mahlet che non vive più a Debre Zeit, e spiega il significato del suo nome (è un nome legato all’annunciazione, e come sapiamo, lei “annuncerà” la storia della sua gente).  Pregando con lui “pian piano nella mente cominciarono a sorgere immagini della mia infanzia, della mia adolescenza” (p. 159).  Sopratutto le viene in mente il vecchio Yacob, e piange a lungo.  E’ un pianto liberatoria per Mahlet e incomincia ad immergersi di nuovo nella cultura della sua terra.  Incontra Abbaba Igirsà Salò e gli racconta la sua storia della guerra contro gli Italiani  e le loro armi chimiche.

In queste pagine la Ghermandi sta collegando la storia dell’Etiopia. La storia di Mahlet che va in Italia dopo la fine del regime di Menghistu, il ricordo di Yacob che era stato un arbegnà, e Abbaba Irigsà Salò che divenne l’arbegnà Virgola.

La storia dello stupido leone e la scimmia  ovviamente allude al colonialism Italiano.

La chiesa di Giorgis mi ha molto incuriosita.  Questo link ha delle foto bellissime della chiesa e di Addis Ababa:



Colonial Autism


Very interesting essay, especially comments on Il Grande Appello and the language in the film.  The “Babelic environment” at the beginning, Giovanni alternating between Spanish and French and speaking Italian only when someone speaks it to him, convey the reality of Italy at the time.  A national language began to really and definitely take form only after WWII.  During the economic boom of the 50’s and 60’s immigration from South to North began to intermingle the various dialects but the real catalyst was television.  The dialogue in the film portrays soldiers speaking in their local dialects indicating lower-class backgrounds but also as Bertellini says “equated local popular traditions with genuine Italianness”.  Even today, dialects are making a comeback in Italy.  Now that they have a common language (Italian), people are turning to their local and regional dialects which are more expressive and convey a sense of belonging.  Being Italian for many does not include patriotism or nationalism but a sense of local community.  I would say that a majority of Italians don’t even know the words to the national anthem and there is a movement to change the anthem.  Language is a means of representing  “who we are” and Italians are still not sure of who they are (or were?).

Fascist hymn “Giovinezza with lyrics:


Incorporating the Exotic Blog Post by Margot

I had a lot of trouble understanding the point that Sartini-Blum was trying to make in her article. What I understood from the article (and this could be completely off base) is that artists found obscure ways of incorporating colonialist propaganda into their works.

My way of understanding the article was by reading about Marinetti’s futurism. From the research I did online I learned that the intention of the literary movement was to show fellow Italians that they “had been wearing second hand clothes for too long.” Marinetti was pushing for Italians to make a new understanding of art for themselves that would come out of “the beauty of speed” and a glorification of war. All of this was outlined in Marinetti’s futurist manifesto which was published in the newspaper in Bologna Gazzetta dell’Emilia in 1909.

When I searched Italian Futurist Art this came up. It is called Elasticity by Umberto Boccioni

The Aesthetic and Political Concerns of Futurism

by Laura

I’ve always been really fascinated by the Futurist movement, because it was so inherently political – the way it romanticized industrialization and technology strikes me as very similar to the way the Fascists attempted to romanticize colonialism and fascism itself. And, as Sartini-Blum hints at in the article, I think futurism was ultimately very pro-fascist, as it, in its way, glamorized the “standardized and depersonalized society that [the Fascists] sought to create” (Sartini-Blum, 138).

For example, much futurist art of the time featured industrial buildings depicted in a very surreal and exciting manner, such as this painting by Umberto Buccioni, The City Rises:

Or this painting, by Gino Severini, which depicts an armoured train:

This image, though, may be my favorite. This painting, Patriotic Storm by Fortunato Depero, is so blatantly nationalistic it is almost absurd:

The website from which these pictures were taken made a very interesting point that I think very precisely captures the political nature of the futurist movement:

“When Italy declared entry into the First World, many Futurists signed up to fight. From its inception the movement was nationalistic and promoted violence, so naturally many saw the war as an opportunity to demonstrate their ideals. “We will glorify war – the world’s only hygiene – militarism, patriotism, the destructive gesture of freedom-bringers, beautiful ideas worth dying for,” the Futurist Manifesto had stated in 1909.”

(Read more about 20 Dynamic Paintings From The Italian Futurists  Cartridge Save Blog )

“Incorporating the Exotic”

I have always enjoyed looking at literature to see what ideas and history were like during the time period that it was written; it can give you a different perspective. One of the things that I enjoyed about the style of the writing for this article was how flowery the language seemed. Most of the time I have issues with that kind of writing because it seems to come across as less forward, however, it worked for this article because of what the topic of it was.

One quote that really stood out to me was this one:

“. . . the futurist exploitation of Africa as a new domain for creative expansion is simply the aesthetic equivalent of the imperialist conquest of new territories for the augmentation of Italy’s economic and political strength.”

I think that this quote can speak for what most of the article was discussing. Those who ascribed to the Futurist movement sought to find new meaning and areas of creativity in Africa, a place of exotic new adventures. Ultimately, their search for new ideas different from the past ones that were so hated became similar to the goal of colonialism itself: a search for new economic meaning and political strength for Italy. Unfortunately, it seemed to me that this new search for the exotic soon became the new “norm” thus making it go against what the Futurists wanted to accomplish. It reminded me of something I learned in a history class a few years ago. Many countries began to trade exotic materials and commodities. At first, they were expensive and uncommon to find, however, as time moved on, these new commodities became normal for everyone to have, thus making what once was exotic just, normal.

The one literary work mentioned that really embodied the overall meaning of the article was the one of the Western women looking for love in an exotic place because she was bored with what she had at home. Her new “exotic” lover did not remain exotic for long because colonialism and Westernization had taken over, leaving the exotic to become ordinary. This story also portrays, in a powerful way, many fears and thoughts during the time that it was written such as the “anxieties about the perceived advances of women and non-white peoples.” (p. 155) Overall, a very interesting read.


            Nicholas Doumanis’ article, Italians as “Good” Colonizers, discusses the ways in which the natives of the Dodecanese islands felt about the arrival of the Italians to their islands and the colonization that took place. To better understand these reactions and responses I thought it would be helpful to have a better understanding of Italy’s presence in the Dodecanese Islands.

The Dodecanse, literally translated as ‘twelve islands’, represents the twelve large Greek islands in the Aegean Sea. The Dodecanses includes the islands of Rhodes (the most historically important and well-known of the islands), Kos, Patmos, Astipalca, Kalimnos, Karpathos, Kasos, Leros, Nisyros, Symi, Tilos, and Kastelorizo, as well as 150 smaller islands also in the Aegean Sea. After declaring independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1912, the Dodecanese Islands were quickly picked up by Italy, which, at the time, was deeply interested in this cluster of islands, particularly Rhodes, to monitor communications between Turkey and Libya.

Italy’s occupation of the Dodecanese became legal in July of 1923. Initially, Italians only planned basic improvements to the islands, such as the development of roads and street lamps, as well as the modernization of the water supply network. The next decade of Italian control over the Dodecanese islands can be characterized as an effort to “Italianize” the local inhabitants of the island. Many changes were made to the political and social environments of the islands. The educational system was changed to revoke the superintendence of the Orthodox Church over the schools, and the curriculums were made to include teaching of the Italian language. A school for the training of teachers was founded, and scholarships were developed for Dodecanesian students. In 1924, a law was passed which imposed multiple restraints on cultivation improved the ease with which land could be appropriated from the state, which greatly benefitted the environment but damaged the agricultural economy in the process.

In 1936 the fascist movement made headway in the islands when fascist Cesare de Vecchi became governor and imposed radical changes in an effort to achieve “radical Italianization and institutional modernization of the islands.” At this point there had developed a distinction between the “good” Italians and the fascists. It was after “Fascism came” that the initial efforts of the colonization became lost in de Vecchi’s agenda. “These were remembered as difficult times…interviewees had a habit of describing the period as the dictatorship, ‘when fascism came to the islands’” (page 230)

The Disintegrating Influence of Commodity Exchange

by Laura

“Not by chance weaponry was, at least at the beginning, an exclusive possession of the Europeans. Similarly, …the nature of the gift exchange changed after the Italians introduced guns in their material interactions with the Ethiopians. Guns, as inalienable gifts associated with colonial power, became a form of universal equivalent in the colonial context.” -Lombardi-Diop, p. 123

I found this quote particularly interesting, especially in the context of Marx’s idea that a pure gift economy cannot exist without signs of “disintegrating influence.” I think it’s really fascinating how and why the economic values of items change, and how certain objects become more valuable for political reasons more than for any reason intrinsic to the object itself.

I spent some time looking over Marx’s A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, and I found it really interesting. I particularly enjoyed this section, and found it relevant to the ideas mentioned in this article:

Comments on Doumanis’ Argument

Doumanis presents a perspective on Italian colonialism that can be seen as nostalgic and a 20-20 hindsight view on the subject. Interviewees cited in Italians as “Good” Colonizers: Speaking Subalterns and the Politics of Memory in the Dodecanese use the ambiguity of the word “good” to skew perception of the Italian colonialist’s actions. The interviewees state that Italian colonialism positively transformed the African environment by introducing and improving things such as road systems, agricultural efficiency, reforestation programs, and more modern housing including sewerage and electricity (223). Although these additions to a place which previously lacked them can be seen as beneficial and a movement towards modernity, or as the colonialists may consider “civilization”, an important factor to consider is how these things are good and if they are completely good.

If we accept that electricity, roadways, and agricultural modernity are good next it is important to assess their effects. I would assume the addition of these things, especially the roads and new homes, inflicted slave labor upon the colonies and some were introduced to the colonies without their approval. It is a common theme that more “modernized” civilizations assume the less modernized want what they do not have and try to inflict it upon them if they do not get it for themselves. If the instillation of these improvements harmed citizens or their traditions and cultural it is not fair to call them “good” for the colonies–maybe good in the eyes of the Italians– but not necessarily for the colonies.

Contradiciton and the Reciprocity Rule

I absolutely loved this article! Although well supported, I found myself continually challenging the writer’s arguments.  I questioned everything from the contradiction between Lombardi-Diop’s argument of the relationship between Paiggia’s experience of cultural relativism and his ethnocentric observation’s to her interpretation of Piaggia’s description of Mambia, chief Inido’s daughter.  The main challenge I would like to focus on, however, is the ways in which Lombardi-Diop felt the reciprocity rule influenced Piaggia’s experiencing cultural relativism?

Lombardi-Diop argues that the cultural relativism that Carlo Piaggia experienced is the result of an exchange of services between the Azande society and Piaggia, which had qualities of precapitalist economic interactions.  How could Piaggi have fully appreciated and understood the Azande system of exchange, especially when is it is defined as “Ru ae, the giving of things [to a prince], ought to be balanced by fu ae, the giving of things [to his subjects]”  (Evans-Pritchard 1971:215). Especially, when such an exchange was not just a means of commerce, but was also a tradition of “social, legal, and moral significance” (122).

Surely Piaggia could not relate to the notion of mutal exhange between a prince and his subjects.  Lomabrdi-Diop interpretation of the Piaggia’s relationship with his involvement to the reciprocity rule is as simple as “a precapatalist economic interaction.”  But it is not that simple.  Despite the reciprocity rule, there is still hierarchy within the Azande society.  The concept of heirarchy between social classes in Italy, however, could provide a means of understanding for way in which things were exchanged in the Azande Society. Piaggia’s understanding of this would  give an illusion of cultural relativism. Still themes of superiority and inferiority exists within these interactions, which Piaggia could not only benefit from, but could also relate. So, was Piaggia’s experience of cultural relativism during the “diasphoric phenomenon” all that different from other Italians?  Despite a civilized exchange, do his ethnocentric observations not support the concepts of superiority and inferiority?   Furthermore, did he not exploit the system of the reciprocity rule as the foreign chief in regards to other members in the society?

Margot’s post on Lombardi-Diop and Doumanis articles

When reading Lombardi-Diop’s article, I was most interested in the concept of mal d’Africa. This concept was used to mask any violence or coercion that was involved in colonial interactions and established male sexual dominance over the women and the land. This perpetuates the view of Africa as a submissive female and the Italians as the strong men who own it. Ironically, when I searched for mal d’Africa online to find the results, this tourism website was the first hit on google:  This concept was yet another attempt to romanticize the brutality taking place in Africa.

When Lombardi-Diop switches her focus from gifts to Guns, she compares Carlo Piaggia’s travel notes to notes by Giovanni Miani. Lombardi-Diop notes that as an uneducated man, Piaggia’s travel notes didn’t express any racist sentiments. Miani, who belonged to the northern classes and was highly educated, expressed an evolutionary and racist ideological perspective.

What I found most interesting in Nicholas Doumanis’s article was the quote, “However italianita was attractive in so far as it represented “Europe” rather than a specific national culture.” In class, and in the Duggan readings, we talked a lot about the desire Italy had to become a “European” country. It is interesting that the colonized areas discussed in this article didn’t care who was colonizing them, as long as they brought with them a “European” sentiment.