Melania Messina

Born in Palermo on 1959, she moved to USA during the eighties, she studied photography at the School of Visual Arts in New York. Afterwards she came back to Italy and moved to Milan first and then to Palermo. Since years she has been engaged in a research of visual codes, using color as form of expression, often treating social issues. She treated themes as women against mafia, female immigration towards Sicily. In 2004 the International Museum of Women in San Francisco has selected her entry for the published anthology project, Imagining Ourselves, previewed in New York at the 49th Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women. The anthology with a preface by Isabella Allende, focuses on the global female experience. In 2005 she conceived a project with teenagers living in a deprived suburb in Palermo. The project aroused interest, and the Italian public network RAI, transmitted on air her reportage. Her work Glimpses of broken silence concerning domestic violence, has been shown under the patronage of the President of Italian chamber of deputies. Recently she received an award as acknowledgement for her engagement. Her images are published in national and international magazines. | Instagram

Glimpses of broken silence

The photo essay aims to represent with images the inner emotions of women victims of domestic violence. In order to give voice and dignity to the women who have suffered because of the abuse, I choose to ask them to write their feelings while subjected to the violence. Small sheets of paper become fragments of emotions, different handwritings as portrait. The photography language used as tool to interpret women emotions. I like to think that the project is an opportunity to let the women being active subjects of the images, actively participating to the storytelling, choosing the way to be represented with a perspective which is not only the further humiliating beaten face portrait, because one of the most common feeling amongst the victims is just the humiliation and the shame and the healing of the soul wounds comes through elaborating the experience without any sense of guilt and defeat.

I worked with a group of seven women victims of violence, we shared images and experiences with the intent to build a visual narrative that goes through the whole experience from the violence to the awakening of awareness, if any,  to the choice to ask for help searching for a sort of “redemption by the condition of the victim” to heal the deep wounds of the soul.

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Struggle against the mafia and rural society

After the second world war Sicily was socially organized in a feudal system, during this time a strong peasant movement was struggling for a real implementation of a new agrarian reform, which was going to redistribute the uncultivated lands of few landlords. Hundreds of thousands of people, mainly farmers and trade unionists, were going to occupy lands to sow them. They clashed with a fierce reaction by the “mafia” and often also by the police forces, both acting to protect the interests of the local ruling classes. Indeed mafia could be relied upon to use violence against all those seeking social reform and change, often acting in connivance with those who represented formal law to preserve social stability, thus validating their private control of community public life. The result was a silent killing of trade unionists, socialists and communists or simple farmers. Most of these murders have been unpunished. On 1947 the massacre of “Portella delle Ginestre” marked one of the peaks of the violence.