1920 – 1959

Another intellectual figure and contemporary of Ortoli, Fosco Maraini, gives us a similar view of Sicily. He shared some significant cultural interests with François-Xavier, such as a deep knowledge of the Far East, where they both spent a significant part of their lives, and where they developed an interest in social and anthropological issues. Maraini used photography to explore and depict an ancient and rural southern Italy, plagued by social, political and economic problems, in which the modernisation process was traumatic and exhausting.

Women Bottling Wine
Unknown Author, Women Bottling Wine at the Gambina Vini Estate, Marsala, 1920-1930

Maraini’s Sicily belongs to the “dreamlike peripheries of the World” 1Francesco Faeta, Sognate periferie del mondo, in Nostro Sud di Fosco Maraini di Fosco Maraini, Alinari, Firenze 2009, p. 220. It is a distant, archaic and marginalised location, since this is the role assigned to Sicily in the canon of the Italian journey, making it the perfect subject for an anthropological programme. Maraini’s photographs give the impression of

“un affresco ampio, totalizzante sulla civiltà meridionale, attento agli aspetti naturali e paesaggistici, come ai sedimenti della storia, alle diverse forme di intervento culturale e artistico e alle abitudini e usanze religiose, con una forte impronta formale ed estetica, in analogia con quanto [Maraini] aveva sperimentato in Tibet” 2a wide panorama, encompassing the southern Italian way of life, paying particular attention to nature and landscape, to the historical heritage, to culture and the arts and to religious practices and traditions, with a heavy emphasis on the formal and aesthetic, similar to that which [Maraini] had experienced in Tibet”, Cosimo Chiarelli and Elisa Ciani, Una Visione Irrisolta, Il Meridione Italiano di Fosco Maraini, in Nostro Sud di Fosco Maraini, Alinari, Firenze 2009, p. 220

in which the formal approach to the composition and beauty of the image does not conceal, but rather accentuates the social dimension.

François-Xavier Ortoli returned from Sicily not only with these photographs, but also with profound impressions of the social and economic issues of that part of the world, which influenced his political thinking. Twenty years after his journey, Ortoli, by then President of the European Commission, described his experiences in Sicily as having formed the basis of his policies towards southern Europe. In his vision, it would no longer be on the peripheries of the European Community, but would become the gateway to northern Africa and the near Middle East, in the framework of common Mediterranean policies:

“L’Italie, et singulièrement le Mezzogiorno sont appelés à jouer un rôle important et à trouver un grand intérêt dans la réalisation de l’ambitieux dessein qui vise à établir dans cette région du monde un esprit, de coopération entre partenaires égaux en droit, à favoriser la réduction des tensions, l’essor des échanges, le développement économique et social et le rapprochement entre Etats riverains” 3Italy, and especially the Mezzogiorno, are called upon to play an important role and to take a particular interest in the realisation of the ambitious plan which aims to establish, in that region of the world, a spirit of cooperation between partners that are equal under law, in order to reduce tensions, facilitate trade, economic and social development and the reconciliation between neighbouring States”, Speech of François-Xavier Ortoli, President of the European Commission, at the University of Bari, 14th June 1974

References   [ + ]

1.Francesco Faeta, Sognate periferie del mondo, in Nostro Sud di Fosco Maraini di Fosco Maraini, Alinari, Firenze 2009, p. 220
2.a wide panorama, encompassing the southern Italian way of life, paying particular attention to nature and landscape, to the historical heritage, to culture and the arts and to religious practices and traditions, with a heavy emphasis on the formal and aesthetic, similar to that which [Maraini] had experienced in Tibet”, Cosimo Chiarelli and Elisa Ciani, Una Visione Irrisolta, Il Meridione Italiano di Fosco Maraini, in Nostro Sud di Fosco Maraini, Alinari, Firenze 2009, p. 220
3.Italy, and especially the Mezzogiorno, are called upon to play an important role and to take a particular interest in the realisation of the ambitious plan which aims to establish, in that region of the world, a spirit of cooperation between partners that are equal under law, in order to reduce tensions, facilitate trade, economic and social development and the reconciliation between neighbouring States”, Speech of François-Xavier Ortoli, President of the European Commission, at the University of Bari, 14th June 1974