Travel /
Sicily /
Culture /

Sicily: The Mediterranean Mirror

“Located at the edge of Europe, facing Africa and the Middle-East, it is portrayed as a transitory space where territories, cultures and history overlap and intertwine.”


This selection of images gathers a raw and intimate portrait of Sicily. A gaze from within, detached from the romantic view of the usual representations of this region. Over the years, through these images and my various projects about my birthplace, I have been seeking a more realistic perspective, true to myself and no one else. For I have never seen Sicily represented in the way I have seen it. 


The colour palettes are meant to convey the same energy and emotions I feel when I wander around the landscape. I’m overtaken by a sense of nostalgia, excitement and anger, drenched by an irrational sense of ancestral connection, as bold as it is inexplicable. These feelings vibrate under my skin when the sun appears after the rain, when everything turns red and orange like the lava stones in the summer sun and when the sea turns silver and dark blue in September. 


A perpetuating feeling exploding again and again.


When I cross streets, blinded by the smoke coming from the embers grilling horse meat, artichokes and peppers, when I stumble upon a horse-drawn buggy in the middle of the city or when I see dozens of kids climbing over a cliff jumping and diving into the sea, dangerously sneaking through rocky crevices. Ultimately, in any of those moments in which humanity and folklore sublimate in perfect harmony between love and death. Side by side.


In the same subconscious dynamic these feelings often turn into two polar opposite energies: a propulsive one pushing me out, seeking new discoveries and threads to investigate, meeting people and taking photographs; and, on the opposite, a sinking energy dragging down morale, absorbing all strength and will, aligning with the pace of the impassive Mediterranean rhythm, leading nowhere. Like quicksand.


The fil rouge connecting my projects and rhetoric, has been that of seeing Sicily as a mirror and metaphor for the Mediterranean.


Located at the edge of Europe, facing Africa and the Middle-East, it is portrayed as a transitory space where territories, cultures and history overlap and intertwine.


Over the years I have been researching around an idea of the Mediterranean contributing culture, landscape and Identity. The Mediterranean, meaning not just the sea itself, but as a frontier or barrier between North and South, East and West, an intricate site of encounters and currents. Invoking movement of peoples, histories and cultures that underlines the ongoing historical transformation and cultural translation which makes it a site of perpetual transit.


A liquid territory, as Braudel defined it.


Spontaneously denying the Identity superimposed by Europe’s legal system, denying the creation of borders and questioning the notions of “inside” and “outside”.


A liminal identity juxtaposed by the rigid structure in which the rest of Europe partitions itself on the inside.  


During this long term photographic research project I have often focused on the youth of Sicily, believing the younger generations bear the most explicit traits of a place’s changing demography.


The so called “Migration crisis” has been overtaking Sicily since the late 90s. 


Now, approximately 30 years later, the descendants of the first generations of migrants have been born, raised and bred in Sicily. Hence they are culturally nurtured and educated in Italy, yet raised in families of a different culture. I have always been fascinated by the duality and multiplicity of this identity, and through my photography I have been trying to capture these multifaceted aspects of the ever-evolving face of my homeland.


Simply looking at Sicily’s history, it is clear that the region can’t really be framed within one single root and heritage. All the populations that have passed through the Mediterranean, settled for a time in Sicily, leaving a permanent mark, both in the skin of its inhabitants as much as on the surface of the architecture and topography of its cities and villages. 


Wandering around and discovering the region’s history, it feels like none of these cultures ever left Sicily. For this reason, many of the more recent migrants decided to stay here, or in some cases return, despite experiencing life further north in Italy or Europe, finding Sicily to be more like home.

Photography by Glauco Canalis