Telling of Sicily like never before

Sicily is host to an immense heritage, natural and cultural, tangible and intangible. Thousands of years of human existence at the most geographically strategic crossroad in the Mediterranean, home to some of Europe’s most fertile soils and most fishful waters, have left traces which, though enfeebled under the pressures of modernity, still survive. When planning our itinerary (which we felt free to alter on the way) our mission was to expose the dazzling layered-ness bespeaking this historical track record of human interaction among different cultures and between men and nature .

This complexity cannot be captured by a mere gallery of images. Being Sicilian ourselves we set out to meddle with our fellow islanders, enter their homes, sleep in their courtyards, eat at their table. And how extraordinary to find that in many old villages of the interior the dialect spoken retains words derived from ancient greek, arabic, french, spanish or portuguese; in some of these towns people speak a gallo-italic language which dates back to when Roger I (1031-1101) encouraged migration from northern Italy to depopulated villages of inner Sicily.

We did not then, only set out to document the striking variety of landscapes and material relics of a past more or less distant, from paleolithic necropolises to olive trees over a thousand years old, but also the people who are the living testimony of this past. Many of them are still engaged in activities and traditions of craftsmanship springing from this millenary interaction of humans with nature. They should, in our view, be an inspiration and a powerful source of identity for our generation and those to come.

Particularly crucial apropos, is Norman Lewis’ claim from his sicilian travel notes: “the Sicilian is the legatee of a ancient and splendid civilization from which he has inherited human standards of an impressive kind”. In our view, it conveys the importance of recognising the relevance of what we inherited from the past as well as the urgency of building upon a value system which is conducive to sustainable human development. And this is all the more relevant in Sicily where economic backwardness, the pervasiveness of a mafia-like kind of nepotism and a constant human hemorrhage among its young generations are draining the island of much-needed potential for positive change.