Street art in Sicily is anything but secondary or marginal.
It’s a force that is changing spaces from within, that is attracting artists from around the world and taking people to places and destinations that they otherwise would never have visited. You could call it a revolution, which like any other revolution starts from the bottom. Moreover, it’s a residents revolution rather than some bureaucratic one because it is the people that are demanding it in their space, in their neighbourhood. They are taking ownership over something which before, thanks to others wasn’t happening, Street Art is bringing them, and their city, a different purpose and usefulness that was otherwise forgotten.
In a short space of time, names like Ema Jones, Pang, Gue, Poki, Collettivo FX, I Mangiatori di Patate, Gubrin and Sten Lex have turned half of Sicily into their canvas moving between the cities of Palermo and Catania to the smaller, more lesser known territories of Licata or Castrofilippo. But Street Art ends up going beyond the actions of the individual artist: in fact, the purpose of an ephemeral art is to continuously change the status quo, creating something new and different, putting in motion a substantive change, one which moves between the real and digital world, where people meet and interact; this art form is cherished on the streets and moves quickly into online, showcasing the different realities of Sicily. What starts on the street, has an digital life.
Licata has a history of creative missionaries that have gone against the grain of “what is normal” and instead chosen art to express their anger, disapproval and frustration of things that have gone unchanged or unobserved. Rosa Balisteri was one of the first female singer songwriters who used a guitar to condemn the abuse of her hometown at the hand of the Mafia with with her song, mafia e i parrini (priests). Today’s new breed of artist, the Street Artist is then welcomed in such a city. An underground city in some cases, one where between the vineyards, artists use its landscape, such as the Marina to tell of similar stories, turning the town into a tourist attraction, and one where creatives, curious travellers and of course, it’s townspeople can identify with the new art form. It’s another fine example that Street Art in Licata, like across the whole of Sicily is gaining in popularity, more now than ever, of reappropriation, recovery and validation in areas which have been left behind and forgotten, such as the Marina, which as the inhabitants would tell you, need to be seen.
The Sicily of today is not just one of historic churches, archaeological sites or crystalline beaches, it’s one which has a soul, one where those who have lived there, come back, giving new ideas and answers to old questions and re-writing pages of their current cities in different artistic forms.
Cufù, an acronym for Castrofilippo Urban For Us is another example of an association of young people who have chosen to stay in their home city and to use new techniques, urban techniques, testing public art forms. Again, in a short space of time, artists from around the world have come and turned their small town into an artists canvas all in plain sight, always alive, never less than a must see on the island.
Their urban spaces feature a villa and a piazza, a sign that street art is appreciated and one which shows that associations like Cufù have managed to re-energise the area more than any other form of power.
To tell the real story of this unedited Sicily and its transformation, the first Urban Art guide, one which uses words and photographs has been published called, “Street Art in Sicilia”. Created by Luisa Tuttolomondo, Mauro Filippi, Marco Mondino – a sociologist, an architect photographer and semiotician have all undertaken extensive research into all the areas that are undergoing such radical transformation.
The result? A region which has beauty from the arabs to the normans is intricately being weaved with new artistic forms, in a space which is turning into a place, moreover one which is giving a new sense and purpose to its people. These are the ones who will forever be destined to be the authors of a new Sicily.