Winter solitude: in a world of one color / the sound of wind. Matsuo Bashō

What remains in the end? Some object to tell that we existed. Why do the things we think we possess actually live longer than their owners? Like any artifacts of ancient tombs may testify or as Borges, the sublime, wrote at the end of Things (1): “They’ll long outlast our oblivion; and will never know that we are gone.”

In the beginning of this poem, Borges lists a series of objects (“The coins, the cane,  the key ring, the cards, the  chessboard, a book, and in its pages that wilted violet, …). These things that belonged to the author paint a more intimate portrait than a thousand biographical pages, because    Objects take on the function of true companions in our emotional life. We think along with them, they live with us while we think. “(2).

And what sort of things do we see in the Lampedusa piece by Marco Bravura? A list, sparse and chilling in its harmonious disorder, of everyday objects that belonged to migrants fleeing the Libyan coasts. These objects are at once a metaphor for these people, given that they could come from anywhere  in the world, and things, in short, that might be found on the water edge of Lampedusa. They are, once again, the only witnesses that survived the bodies of their former owners, now swallowed by the sea, dolls, hats, shoes, little sandals, a stuffed toy bunny, a toy boat, a spoon, bottles and water bottles, feeding bottle, some plastic containers , glasses and a toothbrush.

All covered in white tiles. Blinding. A portion of former living beings, fixed with cement and mosaic to freeze them permanently, imitate what should be perpetual motion par excellence, that of waves, hanging here like an oxymoron in time and space, in a fraction of seconds, minutes, hours, actually forever. The same waves that shortly before carried out the massacre now seem to caress these abandoned objects on the Lucretius’ bibula harena (4), on the sand that soaks up ceaselessly. But everything is rigid, fixed, dead, as the ancestor’s wax masks  present in the Roman domus.

Also the use of the unvarying white  seems a paradox in the repertoire of an author like Bravura, whose stylistic hallmark is represented by beauty and sparkling colors. But white here is used as a funeral symbol. As Guernica, these objects, arranged to form a macabre contemporary dance, speak louder than pictures of mangled bodies, such as the images of piles of shoes, clothes, and suitcases from Auschwitz. White is reminiscent of fleshless bones, whiter than most of the plaster casts of Pompeii’s dead, white and immaculate as the lilies that announced the arrival of the pale Death in western popular piety,  white as the color of mourning in the Far East, white as the snow storm that covers and crushes everything in one of  the Kurosawa’s Dreams (5 ). White, the sum of all colors, is by definition a non-color. It seems to erase the identity and the mana (6) itself, the spiritual strength of objects, no matter how poor, that a mother or a father might have given to their child or may have taken away from home before the tragic odyssey. The bewilderment of this abandonment that Bravura proposes is a closed fist aimed at the eyes of those who have a conscience. Although these remains are trivial, they rise to a ritual level. being mindful of the recent sacrifice, to remind anyone watching them with courage, that they had a soul, that they were living things for the living. For them, one can only pray as Martial did for the girl Erotion, (7), that the sea may place a small burden on those  who placed a small or no burden on it. Finally, following the imagination of the Etruscans, may all rediscover the peace denied in their extreme journey, in the Islands of the Blessed, brought there by dolphins of the great and compassionate Neptune.

    1) J. L. Borges, Things, da Elogio dell’ombra, Torino 1971 (ed. originale, Buenos   

          Aires 1969).                                                                                                                                     

     2 )  G. Starace, Gli oggetti e la vita, Objects and Life, Roma 2013. 


The shipwreck known as the tragedy of Lampedusa saw the death of 366 people and 20 missing and it happened 3 October 2013

Lucretius, De Rerum Natura, II, 376, ( Rome, 2000 )

            5)    A. Kurosawa, Dreams, 1990

            6)   M. Mauss, Essay on the gift, Form and Reasons for exchange in the archaic societies

                 ( 1923-24) General Theory of Magic, Turin, 2000 ( original edition Paris, 1950 )

             7)    Martial, Epitaph on Erotion, Epigrams, V, 34, ( Rome 1993 )

A tombstone, a shroud, a veil drawn over a tragedy that deprives reality of significance and colours.

Marco Bravura

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