Each of the small historical centres located on the Ionian coast of Calabria has been affected by the phenomenon of abandonment, which started around the 1950s. The inhabitants inexorably left their villages located on the hills to move to the plains, near the sea, in the so called ‘marinas’. Some have even left their native village to move to distant lands.
Walking through the streets of these villages, it is easy to meet old ladies sitting on the edges of the wrinkles (“rughe”). Some of them simply watch the passers-by, others talk amongst themselves, often animatedly. The women, the mothers, are the last ones left in these villages, “unsuspecting witnesses and guardians of traditions and popular culture” who “like ghosts appear in the alleys and on the doorstep in an eternal wait”, in the words of Roberto Giglio.
Roberto Giglio was born in Badolato, he is an architect, painter and set designer and even when he was studying architecture in Rome he never lost his deep connection with his home town. He decided to seek out, pursue and photograph these women. He did this through painting, theatre and music.
During an informal chat, Roberto Giglio infected me with his enthusiasm as he told me about his meeting with Domenico Gangemi, a writer whose story entitled ‘I fantasmi di Badolato’, written in 1993 after visiting Badolato, inspired him to create his first art project of the same name, comprising 10 portraits of 10 Badolato women. That project was then turned into a play staged in Rome.
I had the pleasure of seeing the canvases he painted and I was amazed by the beauty of those representations. The women’s faces are undefined, unlike their hands, which are marked by hard work. With his paintings he managed to paint the essence, the soul of those women, immortalising their eternity. I agree with Cesare Terracina when he says that the light in his paintings is “blinding and impregnable, like the people of the South”.
Roberto Giglio is now working on another project called “Le pietre non muoiono mai” (Stones never die), which focuses on 10 villages in Calabria that are victims of depopulation. Thanks to his artistic expression, he has reached and sensitized many people to the major problem of depopulation of the ancient villages in southern Italy, involving even children in his artistic workshops.
Sonia Simpatico, JUMP Team