(Un)making the myth of Italianità: on the relationship between imagery and song in Fascist colonialism and its heritage
Interviewed as part of the project Listening to Italian Colonialism, artists and musicians Zamua and Medhin Paolos stated that the 1930s songs of the fascist colonial repertoire reminded them of certain propaganda images that were widespread over the same period. Together with Gianpaolo Chiriacò, author of the project, the two artists raise questions on how to take the dust off that musical repertoire in order to deconstruct collective colonial imagery. Starting from their observations, the first part of this contribution deals with the relationships between colonial imagery (mainly illustrations and postcards) and music, and aims to identify themes and narrative strategies common to both media, which made the manufacturing of a “coordinated image” of the empire (Mignemi 1983) possible. This confrontation is essential today in order to identify new questions and new counter-narratives. How can we use the colonial heritage to unmake whiteness and the myth of italianità? Is it possible to work on the melodies and words of these songs without replicating their violence? What follows in the second part of this essay is an attempt to answer these questions, looking at how contemporary art in Italy is dealing with the Italian colonial archive. The case studies that will be analyzed challenge both the myth of italianità and the stereotypes that still weigh on the people who are considered ‘other’. Within them, sounds and images constitute critical tools which take on an evocative purpose, but what they evoke are anti-nostalgic images that dismantle collective Italian colonial imagery. These are works that provide useful methodological directions for those who wish to “work the archive” (Cianelli 2015) of colonial music, the political potential of which remains unexplored to this day.
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Coloniality, whiteness, decoloniality, arts-based research, antiracism