Arsine (Ethiopian Trilogy I)

Arsine, video, 2’20”, 2013

The Second Italo–Ethiopian War (1935-1936) is an almost forgotten chapter of italian collective memory: it is often recalled as a little exotic conflict, almost erased from the memory of the dramatic events of WW2. Instead in this conflict, strictly tied with the imperial fascist dream, the psychological and emotional involvement of the Italians was more than what Italian people were able to admit at the end of the war.

This video is focused on a specific issue of this war: the heavy use of chemical weapons by the Italian army, in open violation of international laws (Geneva protocol, 1925). This crime, despite at the time being denounced at international level by the ethiopic emperor Hailè Selassiè, was openly admitted by the italian government only in 1996.

The dominant racism and the rhetoric of the war of civilization against a barbarian enemy made use of an impressive propagandistic machine and was the moral excuse of the genocide, a dynamics that will repeat many times since then to present times.

I took the images composing the video from a photographic album belonging to my family, where my mum’s uncle collected  the images taken in his two years of war in Africa. Over these images, depicting a still landscape where immobility and a disturbing silence are the leading actors, I either reported quotes from Mussolini’s declarations and telegrams or those of the ethiopic emperor and his ras (quoting from “The ethiopic war” by A. Del Boca ).