I am in a theatre room waiting for a conversation to begin on a much-debated topic, identity, understood as one’s origin and belonging to a nation and culture.
Its title, “Non.KA.non” alludes both to the event, the PhotoVogue Festival and to not be considered conform with a canon.
We, the viewers, are asked to close our eyes and listen – which I would say it’s quite tricky nowadays. So we do as instructed and listen to a simple presentation in a clearly regional, Venetian, cadence. At the end of the speech, we are asked to open our eyes again and with a slight shiver running down my back I understand that the intent is more than successful. A regional accent that is not immediately associated with the figure that appears in front of us, a girl who, judging by her physical appearance, would seem more African than Italian.
The apparently trivial exercise creates a general discomfort, since the mind, misled by prejudice and canons, would have assigned that accent to a body with a European appearance, therefore white.
Hence a series of inevitable considerations: how can a girl, born in Italy, who knows little or nothing about her African descent, not be considered Italian for her skin colour?
From here I wonder, who makes a nation? The tongue? The birthplace?
The social constructs we carry with us create a lexicon and a mindset that leads us to consider only those with white skin as Italian and builds such strong prejudices that they are internalised even without wanting to.
We therefore always return to the problem of identification with a canon, the white one, which today is an obsolete and limiting idea, whereas the problem of identity is precisely a cultural and social projection.
In this regard, fashion has been working to open perceptions. Inclusiveness is an integral culture of many brands such as Gucci which already sponsors cultural opening in its kids’ collections, trying to deconstruct our perceptions, as well as opening up to a new culture on gender.
Or again, Stella Jean, a strong supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement, sees fashion as a liberating weapon to one’s identity, which, if imposed, turns out to be comparable to a form of violence.
And what do we do individually to not focus on blackness?
Listening to other people’s stories can be the first step towards personal growth and deconstruction of our preconceived ideas. We must be open to creating a new culture with new content.