INTERVIEW VIDEO TRANSCRIPTION
I think today real militancy does not mean to be resistant, it means to build a different world, to think about it for real. I believe that to be resistant means to assume it, to manipulate it, to get your hands on it, to stay inside, to share projects.
A demonstration, a march, a banner, is not enough, you have to do something, to practice a different world, you have to practice, you have to do things, things must be done daily, you have to wake up with a poem in your head with a drawing, with a conceptual idea, with something. An idea that will allow you not to see yourself as ‘resistant’ but rather one that shows your perception of the world back to the world; obviously not everyone will agree with but some certainly would.
There are many different aspects concerning colonialism, as well as contexts; British colonialism in India is a peculiarity, the one in Nigeria is different, as is the colonialism in the American continent, the Portuguese one, and so on. There is no exact way to define colonialism whatsoever.
Actually, colonialism is an extension on western humanism.
The scientific discoveries came in the west after the so called middle ages; for example Leonardo da Vinci in Florence; the concept of cogito ergo sum, “one’s existence”, by the French philosopher (Renè Descartes) – then pops up a series of conditions that has allowed the west to perceive itself to be in charge with a leading role worldwide.
In the meantime, there was a huge amount of work of geographers, in mappings, astronomy, the compass, a strong scientific work which constructed an idea of the world as a landing place.
Therefore, colonialism is not Italian or French. Colonialism is a mentality.
People do colonise with the assumption to be superior, it’s a likely human attempt to take over environments, conditions, and pretending to have the authority to do so.
In the Scramble for Africa, at the 1885 Berlin Conference, after the German unification in 1870, the European countries were able to rearrange the African continent after 300 years of slavery, after they had entirely dilapidated the Latin American and American continents. Africa played a double role: on one hand the role of proximity, because it’s closer to Europe compared to the Americas, on the other hand it opened up a fundamental issue: the issue of memory.
The indigenous and native people of the Americas, in part ended in the Native American reservations; in Pachamama, (mother earth), where the languages Quechua and Aymara were and still are spoken, and somehow ended in the American peripheral dimension where nowadays the struggles that are over land and water are endured by indigenous people in Ecuador and Bolivia. This gives us the perception that perhaps this expansion of colonisation in the world that comes from the west – a so called ‘discovery’ as they say in Europe, or ‘conquest’ in Latin America – is yielding its benefits, those which today we all are witnessing. That is an objective limit of an idea of development because this world is experiencing a crisis today, which is not just an economical matter but a cultural one.
IMPOSED BORDERS IN SOMALIA
Somalia has a peculiarity; the French in the region of Djibouti, the British in Somaliland and the Italians (Italian Somaliland).
It is clear that these borders arose within colonialism, and it’s true that once they are in place one can grow fond of them and one does not question them. And why? Because to ‘trespass’ is far more complex. For one to ‘trespass’ it means to undergo a challenge, and so to expose oneself when you have power is one thing, but having to question the borders that have been instrumental to Western colonialism, means to rethink what was Africa before colonialism and after colonialism.
This issue is very complicated. So, what did they do in Somalia? They left the borders as such because they thought “We have already 4 or 5 different languages and religions; and if we were to eliminate the borders there would be even more confusion”. The confusion becomes the most interesting element concerning the discourse on openness, but certainly for a disciplinary and power discourse it becomes the element they must always fight.
COLONIALITY AFTER (DE)COLONISATION
The continuity of colonialism (after the official decolonisation) was clear because in the meantime the officials of the Amministrazione Fiduciaria Italiana in Somalia (A.F.I.S.), translated as: “Italian Trust Territory of Somalia” – turned into a pun by the Somalis: Ancora Fascisti Italiani in Somalia (A.F.I.S.), translated as: “There are still Italian Fascists in Somalia”, were all the officials of the ministries of the colonies were people who came from fascism.
There has been a continuation of colonialism: there has not been any kind of de-linking.
This is true with independence as well. Why? Because I think that in reality, this is not just an Italian ‘syndrome’, I believe that it is a ‘syndrome’ shared by all countries that have colonised others; for example let’s think about the French… Let’s think about the last time in Mali, only a month ago, two months ago…
Namely I think that the relationship between colonisers and the ex-colonies implies the latter is always regarded below the former; the countries that have been colonised are countries that have less worth, are always underneath. This is a mind-set; this cannot be changed, if you do not change a communicative dimension.
And what does this tell us? How much mental colonial legacy is present with respect to these dynamics?
GENDERED AND RACIALISED COLONIAL REGIMES
The Madamato is the result of racial laws when the white Italian man could not legally have a black woman at his side, so she had to be (literally) defined as “Madame”: a temporary woman.
Indeed the verb “to colonise” means to hunt, to take possession of. As it is with language too, it’s the idea that it can often be said, “to ‘own’ a woman”.
There is no coincidence that in warfare there is always rape; there is always the idea to treat the women as the war or country of war itself. If you annihilate the women in a place of conquest, you have annihilated the place itself, as she is the one who gives life.
Let’s assume that in Africa the woman is black and thus is considered by the western perspective more closely related to animals than humans, or is in fact an actual animal.
Therefore, colonisation and possession becomes one and the same thing. This is the true manifestation of colonisation.
My grandmother, Aschirò was a subaltern; she was a subaltern woman.
What did a relationship with an Italian man in the 20s give her? Shelter, clothes, food? You could buy a woman. The man was the boss, he came with weapons, he placed himself in that environment and said “I will do whatever I want”.
My mother Isabella was very different. Isabella, (Timira in Italian) was never a subaltern because she was the daughter of culture, not Italian culture, but a culture of resistance. What was Isabella resisting? Injustice. Why? Because she lived in a symbiosis with her brother who was, back then, a real resistant.
Isabella, compared to her mother, had a consciousness of her position as a black woman: she was beautiful and completely different from the woman her mother was. Different times, different contexts, though there’s something connecting them: the fact that they are both children of a world that became global.
GIORGIO MARINCOLA ANTI-NAZI/FASCIST FIGHTER
I think he grew up like Isabella, as an Italian child. The ‘son of colonies’ wasn’t much different to any other Italian apart from the colour of his skin. He grew up in Italy, and lived in Calabria until he was ten with his fantastic uncles and then moved to Rome where he went to school.
In terms of his ‘resistancial dimension’ I believe that his professor of history and philosophy, Piero Albertelli, who was anti-fascist, played an important role.
In terms of his ‘heroic dimension’, actually I believe he did what he felt was right; especially when he was released from a concentration camp in Bolzano.
He kept fighting even though the war was over, by standing with those who were defending farmers and unarmed people. He was indeed coherent.
In fact, he was true to himself. He said, “I do what I do because I believe in it, that’s what I am fighting for, that is what I live for so for that I’m also ready to die”. Actually what happened after (he died) was really shocking, especially for his sister Isabella. There is no memory of Giorgio, no commemoration, no presence…because it unveils deep issues, shame, the memory of this country.
“I do not see ‘the homeland’ having any colour on the map”, he told at Radio Balta in Villa Schneider in Biella.
“I do not see ‘the homeland’ having any colour on the map, for me ‘the homeland’ is justice and freedom for the people of the world” and then they punched Giorgio hard, again and again. “I do not see ‘the homeland’ having any colour on the map…”
His idea of ‘the homeland’ wasn’t one of [nationalism], it was rather the idea of freedom, the idea of freedom and justice. The world moves towards that.
‘The homeland’ has restrictions which often tightens us and that is why migrants cannot trespass because the real problem of our world are indeed the borders.
Only animals are able to trespass but humans cannot do this because they become clandestine people in the moment they trespass.
“‘The homeland’ should never have any colour on the map: it is freedom and justice”. This is the real struggle that must be faced, not that of ‘the homeland’ or the borders because really it is about freedom and justice.
CHILDREN OF COLONIALISM
In Somalia, as is the case of most colonised countries, children were actually ‘spawned by sin’ because they were born through illegitimate relationships. In that area, such a chauvinist concept was rather a predatory one for which women were not women, and the children were therefore not sons, so the latter remained literally abandoned.
In Somalia there was a religious order, the “Sisters of Consolata”, who took care of these ‘bastards’, both male and female.
What did these children do? Here the children remained, growing up in orphanages where they were not recognised; the father did not recognise them, neither did the Somali communities, believing that they were bastards. The majority of these poor kids lived a frightening environment because they were not Somalis or Italian, growing up as stateless people in a territory. They were symbols of the combination of the white coloniser and the black colonised, resulting in a reality that they did not chose, but of which they were subjected to all consequences.
CHRISTIAN COMPLICITY IN COLONIALISM
Once established in Rome, the Catholic Church needed to expand throughout the world.
Colonialism was a vessel. Figures such as the religious missionary, the soldier and the explorer, were the ones who went to conquest the world.
So boxes with weapons and other things would arrive, as well as boxes with bibles and gospels, and in some boats there could be a priest; two priests…
To stay out from world current affairs is not possible by the church; the church has always inhabited the world, it does it now and it will always do.
Today we have an Argentinian pope, a significant messenger of Jesuits during the Videla military dictatorship in the Dirty War from 1976 until 1983. He had a significant role in the junta when many people disappeared, many priests were killed too, and he hasn’t told us anything about that so far. So where does the church stand when it’s a question of power? The church stands by the power, it will always stand by the power. The power of colonialism was a relevant one, it has labelled an age, centuries. The church stands by power, the church is a power.
FORMS OF CONTEMPORARY COLONIALITY
Colonial relationships still exist. But if they become mental conditions that allow you to become the colonized and to stay there believing that your condition is unchangeable, that is one’s own choice. I believe instead that despite the imposed colonial French language you can use the French to tell us about the Balieu, to speak about today’s France, which is much more about Marseille more than anything else. Today, France is a country that has no identity except what the people of Balieu tell us.
There is no longer the western European coloniser; today it is fragile; it has many problems; for example, it can no longer address the issue of Cyprus. There’s no point in thinking that the British or the French still have relevant power in the world. In my opinion, in those areas, it is the Chinese who play a strong role. They are shifting the axis. It’s them who are putting at stake boundaries and limits. It is no longer Europe. Europe is in trouble domestically. If we want to be the victim, we are victims until the end of the world. But we are not only victims, we can also be the perpetrators we are especially good at this when dictators rule our countries. Therefore, I do believe in fact that it’s not an issue what people impose on you, the language they force you to study, but the way you make use of that language and how you can turn it around and make it an instrument of power.
COLONIAL HISTORY DENIAL TROUGH THE EDUCATIONAL STATE APPARATUS
By removing colonialism from history we raise an issue in which both high school and university are involved. I studied at the University of Contemporary History according to the old system in Bologna in San Giovanni in Monte. There I had two mandatory exams, one was called “The History of the Risorgimento”, the other “Italian History in the Twentieth Century”. In the latter there were not even 5 lines about Italian colonialism. It was a fundamental institutional examination, historically starting from 1865 spanning to 1995!
The school is a mediator, which allows the conception of oneself to be taught and learned at school. The culture of this country is not a colonial one, it never has been: “Italians are good people”, “What is Somalia, an island in the Caribbean?”
Actually it is a country that has never elaborated on both, not on the nation state nor on post-fascism. Fascism was the hanging of Mussolini, in Piazzale Loreto.
Twenty years were condensed into spitting on both his and Claretta Petacci’s bodies. The very same people were controlling the whole country a day or two later.
What is taught at school about fascism? What was it, a matter of the masses? Only twelve of the 36,000 university professors did not sign the racial laws imposed on Italy [by Mussolini]. Just 12 out of 36,000…so what? This is a country that ‘removes’ everything. Not only removes colonialism, it removes itself completely.
MOBILITY. BORDERS. IMMIGRATION POLITICS. DUBLIN REGULATION
The question of mobility it is a central one. It is connected to the question of borders. Borders are a big human manufacturing that unfortunately is influencing many areas of the world because if you don’t have a valid passport… What does it mean to have a valid passport anyway? A passport from Europe, Canada, the United States, Japan, the Arab Emirates, the Gulf area, but if you have a passport from Bangladesh, India, that’s a whole different story; if you don’t belong to an innermost circle, mobility – despite the fact that we are living in a time which is paradoxically very “mobile”- is not accessible to many people.
People move according to income, if people want to move from pillar to post they need impressively high credit account. And this is mainly dictated by the type of passport one holds.
I believe that today we need to better stabilize the citizenship issues in Italy, escaping the Ius Sanguinius and moving to the Ius Solis, but we also need to re-think the immigration policy of this country, not only within Italy but within the whole of Europe.
In Italy, for instance, it is obligatory for non-EU citizens to have their fingerprints taken when they arrive in Lampedusa for example, stated by the Dublin regulation, and then remaining in this country, unable to travel freely. It is unfair that Italy must be subjected to the various immigration flows coming from the Mediterranean space, without European support. The immigration is not an Italian, Spanish or Portuguese matter, it is a European one.
The right wing still exists and it will always exist. You can always create the burden of the migrant, just as the Italians are linked to the mafia and spaghetti: the stereotype. That will always exist. The Moroccan drug dealer, the Somali criminal, and so on. This thing enters in the emigration and immigration logic. The right wing is omnipresent; they will always be by your side. This is a certainty in western countries.
But what do the leftists do in this regard? What kind of other politics? What kind of integration do they do? In which kind of processes are they involved? Which kinds of inclusion mechanisms do they develop? What kind of prospects do they have according to the world that they are controlling and managing? What is the European left-wing doing for real integration? The right wing has always done its job and it will do it better and better, especially in times of crisis like this, it will do it doubly better, but where is the left? Where has it been? Who created the detention centres for migrants, the Bossi-Fini or the Turco-Napolitano law?
CONTESTING WHITENESS. “ITALIANS” IN 2013
The “race” is a cultural construction, a cultural conflict. Clearly, however, there is a basic concept in Italy which it has yet to overcome.
Nobody will think of me, though I can speak a little Italian, as Italian. They would say, where is he from? Is he Brazilian? Is he Pakistani? If I would say I’m Italian with Somali ancestors, the person I am speaking to would probably have a heart attack.
So the concept of race, for Italy is a concept of “
italianessItalianness”. What does it means to be Italian in 2013? Does it still mean to be white or do we have the mind-set to think that being Italian doesn’t have the assumption of being white. In my opinion, to ask yourself this question is not a small thing, because it breaks down two things, the “Italian identity” and the concept of “Italian race”.
CLANDESTINITY AS POLITICAL SUBJECTIVITY
“I have a dream” is an American movement of 11 million of “undocumented immigrants”. The “Dreamers” are young Chicanos, Latin Americans boys and girls. Immigration is an incredible phenomenon, it is worldwide, it does not concern just Europe, America, the north American continent, but is concern Indonesia, Africa too! There are incredible displacements from country to country. The fact of not having rights does not mean to be “the living dead”.
They still manage to get here, even with everything they have been through… 11 months of crossing countries, Uganda, Angola, Kampala, Sahara desert, Libya, they cross the sea, they arrive in Lampedusa exhausted, some of them even alive.
They are fighters; warriors; and they are very alive.
So ‘the living dead’ does not exist in a state of immigration. Immigration itself is just a living life, because to migrate in those conditions it means that develop great hope in ones heart, a Titanic hope that gets you through everything, but especially gets you through the idea that you are not scared to die.