From the European South

a transdisciplinary journal of postcolonial humanities

L’archivio coloniale in Italia. Storia di Woizero Bekelech e del signor Antonio

Federica Ditadi


The colonial archive in Italy. Story of Woizero Bekelech and Mr Antonio. This paper reads the seventh chapter of Regina di fiori e di perle (2007) by Gabriella Ghermandi, titled “Storia di Woizero Bekelech e del signor Antonio,” in which main historical events are critically deconstructed by Italians themselves, rather than by Africans. In the novel Ghermandi recalls the history of Ethiopia from 1935 to 2000 through Mahlet's story, which becomes the narrative frame of multiple plots, all sharing three main features: orality, subjectivity and a colonial temporal setting. In the above-mentioned chapter, Bekelech narrates her life as an immigrant in Italy and two remarkable encounters: the first with Anna, and the second with Antonio, who have opposite reactions to colonialism and racism: whereas the former is unable to overcome stereotypes about black people, the latter is overwhelmed by guilt for his past life as a soldier in Ethiopia. While Anna stands for the suppression of Italian colonialism, Antonio becomes the speaker for the need of a public memory, being able to combine past and present, Italy and Ethiopia. Bekelech's storytelling stands out for the even dignity given to winner and defeated: both are portrayed through dialogues in the language of the colonized, and in so doing they overcome what Edward Said called the “logic of certainty” (Said 1995), supporting a mode of reasoning that stresses the complexity of the relationship between people who belong to far-away worlds.




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