Front view
Inv. No.S-1986
ArtistCaroline Gavazziborn 1971 in Monza, Italy

"MALIK - Senegal"

from the series: "we are here"

pigment-based inkjet print on plywood board, acrylic glass

Dimensions50 x 40 cm
Edition1/5 (+ 1 e.a.)

signed, titled, numbered (ink) and lable on verso


We Are Here - Riace, Calabria
From afar you can hear the rhythmic rocking of the bells on sheep grazing, along the road that crosses town it is a symphony of fragments of discussions, doors squeaking, windows slamming, mothers calling children. And if there is a little breeze, you can also smell the nearby sea, mixed with the scent of grass. This is right where it all started, right from those waves, which on one day of 1999 pushed a boat ashore loaded with people who had left behind them a brutality they wanted to forget, because it is always better to look forward, if you can catch a glimpse of hope. Those men were Kurdish, descendants from an ancient Mesopotamian civilisation, something probably unknown to those who welcomed them. And they thought they were landing in Calabria but did not know that they were touching the shores of what was once called Magna Graecia, as it shared with the Ancient Greek civilisation culture, richness, and not least, a civil sense of hospitality. Different times, different greatness, the memory of which fades before a present that cancels opportunity and suggests fleeing from a situation that has become hostile, and that due to this slow but unstoppable migration, is becoming even poorer. It is nice that the name of this town, Riace, is associated with the two very famous bronze statues found underwater, but this does not stop the present emptying of homes, the migration of the bravest, condemning a whole economy to standstill. “Identical is the road that climbs to the one that descends”, wrote Heraclitus in the 5th century BC, and here, in a land of migration, the philosopher’s observation takes form, and the many foreigners that keep on arriving after that faraway initial landing provide new hope, just like the one of the Italians that went to seek it elsewhere. All that was needed was the determination of mayor Domenico Lucano and his skills in explaining to everyone that those arriving could represent a resource if you asked them to re-soul the town, to give life to what is called here the utopia of normality. Crafts workshops are springing up, the school is now filling up when it risked closing down, homes are reopened, work is put in to recover precious assets such as dignity and respect.
This is a reality Caroline Gavazzi went to experience for a long period, aware of how important a direct and profound contact was needed with the actors in this lovely story, so that she could then disclose it in photographic language. Loyal to a well-established personal poetry that can be inferred from her previous research – she knows how to go beyond the immediacy of realistic storytelling – the photographer completed a project that is able to convey a very intense message. She got close to these people – who from afar are simply, “the others” – and drew out their personality through portraits, where people like Mohamed, who comes from Egypt, Fatima from Gambia, Gaynell with her children Jamar and Kendis from Cameroon, and Zahra from Afghanistan, take back their status as men, women and kids with a story to tell, hopes to grow, words of brotherhood to speak in their various languages and in their new Italian. The intensity and beauty of these portraits, beautifully printed in black and white and able to convey a dramatic sense of life, were however only a starting point. Caroline Gavazzi used spacers to place a plexiglass sheet in front of each picture, bearing a fingerprint on it. The effect is of a resolute immediacy but also a willingly ambiguous one because if on the one hand she wishes to positively highlight the importance of identity (as everyone knows, every fingerprint is absolutely personal and can belong to only one person), on the other she recalls with subtle unease police identification. After having become well acquainted with these individuals, Caroline Gavazzi transformed them: she did it thanks to the communication strength of the image, because those who were earlier just the subject of a more or less superficial attention, have now become veritable protagonists, affirming their existence and stating “we are here”, and you can see how happy they are if those welcoming them can say the same. You can see it in their intense looks, the different postures with which they pose in front of the camera, the details of their clothing that characterise them. Caroline Gavazzi however then turned to us, and asked us to observe those faces with care, to grasp their details through the fingerprint that stands in the way. And thus, she forces us to an exercise, to scan, an immediate metaphor of the effort we must make to go beyond convention, prejudice, habit, and to get the satisfaction of grasping the real authentic essence of people. To realise, maybe, that we could be looking in the mirror.
(Roberto Mutti, 2016)

S-1986, "MALIK - Senegal"
Caroline Gavazzi, "MALIK - Senegal", 2016
S-1986, Front view
© Caroline Gavazzi
Caroline Gavazzi, "MALIK - Senegal", 2016
S-1986, verso view
Caroline Gavazzi, "MALIK - Senegal", 2016
S-1986, verso view