Marcellina (2015) :: A performance by Humberto Duque


I was born in this valley, filled with history and kissed by the sun. Lying between the Parco Naturale Regionale of Monti Lucretili and the Aniene’s Valley, at Rome’s door, Marcellina always looked to me like a nest – warm, familiar and tight, too tight. Luckily, one emancipates from its nest and frees himself/herself from customs. That happened to me during Summer 2014, and I do believe that it happened to a lot of people in my village. The situation was different, suddenly: the world came to us, without that we had to go out and search for it.

Since 2013, Italy has been the stage of tragic landings, for it is the principal destination for migrants arrived from North Africa to Sicily, Europe’s door. Having always been a land of departures and arrivals, the country has welcomed them in provisional shelters held everywhere from South to North – often dramatically witnessing an on purpose disorganization. One of these centres was in Marcellina indeed, traditionally a small village impermeable to what’s new and hostile to foreigners. It is not a coincidence that one of the most traditional folkloristic ways of saying was “Marcellina: passa e cammina”, meaning “Marcellina: pass by and don’t stop”.

Against every expectation, the locals got used to the distant presence of the immigrants, showing a kind of curiosity towards “the others”. Even though these figures have never been integrated in the local landscape, it’s not false to state that they have marked it profoundly. Even if afterwards they have been moved away – somewhere – the marks of their transit has stayed. The slow and constant walk from their residency on the road to San Polo dei Cavalieri to the centre of Marcellina till Rome by bus, has left a path, has marked the landscape. A shortcut has been created by footprints in the piece of land in front of a majestic abandoned ruin, the former CI.DI factory, out of service since decades.Frozen stones, part of an unaltered landscape, until the arrival of those African feet.

During the long summer 2014, I have seen them going up and down, slowly. They appeared way more native than I thought, for they have been able to modify a static landscape, that everybody of us locals was no more able to see. Like an animal, exploring the ground, recognizing and feeling it, marking it – the migrant immigrants have crossed and lived our land in a way that we have lost. A leg on their uncertain march towards freedom: so dreamt, so illusory! All of a sudden, another meaning for “passa e cammina”!

This is the context of my invitation to Mexican artist Humberto Duque: a call for reflection about this territory and its signs, its contradictions and eternity. The project that he has proposed to me got on extremely well with my feelings, in an incredible natural way. Homage to this territory – which is unknown by him and loved by me – Marcellina appropriates a place and its tools to eventually speak in an universal language, that one of art: of life passing, of coincidences’ harmony, of land and Earth.

Michela Alessandrini
Marcellina, Italy
June 2015