Andare, Partire, Tornare


Lu sangu lava lu sangu

Today, I helped with lighting the gallery, sewed tags on doll clothing from the 1830's, and a Pin the Tail On The Donkey game from the 1930's, and did some scanning stuff. Oh, and sneak off to the bathroom to read more of _Blood Washes Blood_, because it's a pretty compelling read. It's another perspective on Sicily (a good one being _On Persephone's Island_, by Mary Taylor Simeti). The author, who has gone back to the island to investigate the killing of his great, great grandfather, a bandit who was shot to death one night in the 1800's. He comments on interesting things, like the wave after wave of cultures that washed up on the island, and eventually receded, leaving behind architecture, dialect words, and bloodlines in the native population. He notes that seeing a dark, curly-haired Greek type walking hand in hand with a blonde, blue-eyed Norman type is not even blinked at.

"Before the birth of Christ,the empires of Phoenicia, Greece, Carthage, and Rome had swallowed the island in majestic succession. Afterward came the Vandals and Goths, Christian in name, Teutonic-pagan in practice. They were followed by Byzantium's satraps and monks in A.D. 535, and were in turn routed by the Arabs and Islam three centuries later. In 1061, the crusading Normans stormed ashore, returning Christ to the Sicilian throne. Next, one after the other, were German-speaking Schwabs and Francophone Angevins, the inquisitorial kings of Aragon and Spain, the dukes of Savoy, and the emperors of Austria. They all had their moments in the Sicilian sun, culminating in the suffocating two-century rule of the Bourbons.

The Italians, who took power after a secular revolution in 1860 - a scant thirty-seven years before my grandfather was born - were positively newcomers.

Older customs and beliefs survived each invasion, finding voice in grandmotherly fairy tales and refuge in isolated mountain villages, while new gods arrived on one wave and left on another. Always someone else's god, always an outsider.


The sum effect is a bewildering lack of coherence, a landscape of extraordinary monuments that seem entirely divorced from the people who live and die in their looming presence. Prehistoric dolmens, Roman villas, and medieval watchtowers are crumbling into the soil all over the island, ignored or idly plundered by farmers who use two-thousand-year-old temple cornerstones to wall off zucchini and tomato plants."

--Frank Viviano

It always seems humorous to me that I currently work among stuff that is *old* - but only in America. In other countries, not so fresh out of the package, things from the 17th and 18th centuries are still relatively new. Perhaps we cling to our heritage - the obsessed genealogists and antique collectors - because we haven't had time to become accustomed to having a heritage. Those who have grown up in the shadow of a 12th century cathedral are, perhaps, more secure in their place in history. They've seen it, grown up kicking a soccer ball against it, and it's not limited to museums.

To branch off on a brief tangent, it's amazing what kind of aura an object takes on after its been put in a case on display. I've been trucking around objects as we set up the exhibition, and when they're in the storage room, they're just another *thing*, but once put in a case, with a label and a low light directed at it, it becomes A Piece Of History. And then, when we take them down off the wall, or out of the case, they once again turn into simple objects - valuable and historic objects, yes, and ones that need to be treated with particular care - but they're still something that can be put on a cart with a dozen other items and wheeled away into the basement.

Enough for the day. My head hurts, it's almost time to go home, and it's Friday. Will go home, take a hot shower, and p'raps nap. And figure out a way to get a book from State College to me before the 21st of December.

3:08 p.m. - 2001-12-14


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