Is this Racist?

I discovered recently that Dolce & Gabbana have created their Summer 2013 women’s fashion collection with an exuberantly Sicilian theme. It has also come to my attention that American and English journalists are calling it “racist”.

Is it racist? Let’s have a look at it first, so we know what we’re talking about. Here’s a dress:

The dress has pictures of Sicilian puppets called pupi on it. These gorgeous puppets are about the size of six-year-old children and the puppet shows, always in the Sicilian language, tell the stories of the wars of Charlemagne and his fighting heroes such as Orlando.

The puppets are exquisitely made in amazing detail, and the puppet shows are a hilarious and wild way to teach children history. When they have sword fights, for example, the sound of clashing swords is tremendous, and the puppets’ limbs and heads come off. I saw one show where they had ketchupy stuff squirting out, and all the kids were screaming with delight.

Here’s another outfit with pupi on, which looks a little bit like Sicilian national costume. “Pupa”, by the way, is a word Sicilians use for a cute girl or a sexy chic.

Here’s a blouse with a cartwheel on. Take a good look at her earrings by the way.

It’s a picture of the traditional Sicilian horse drawn carts that look like this:

I took these photos at a procession in our town and did a photo blog post of them here.

The horses are dressed like this.

Remember those earrings the model was wearing? Compare them to the horse’s outfit:

Here are some traditional Sicilian majolica plates.

And here’s a Dolce & Gabbana dress with plates on. Handmade Sicilian ceramics are the last major craft left in Sicily and its best selling tourist souvenir.

Here’s another type of ceramic made in Sicily. These vases were introduced by the North Africans when they conquered and ruled Sicily. They brought the technology of multi-coloured glazes and established many potteries in early medieval times.

It’s traditional to have these topping your gateposts outside, but most people who own them keep them inside nowadays because they cost more then 300 Euros and they don’t want them to get nicked.

Sicilians call these Saracen heads or Moors’ heads. When the north Africans invaded, they obviously began inter-marrying with the existing white/European population. That’s why some of the faces are black and some are white.

Here are some more.

Here’s another D&G dress with black and white “Moors heads” on:

And another:

Here’s a dress made of some hessian-looking material, which they use here to wrap up and decorate typical Sicilian food and drink products for selling to tourists. She has cartwheel earrings, a moors head on her tummy, and note she has “Taormina,” a very popular tourist town, emblazoned across her boobs. Basically, she is all dressed up as a jar of souvenir Sicilian pesto.

And now some earrings – which seem to be the detail that has particularly got everyone hopping up and down with indignation:

She’s got little black Moors heads, and here are some little white ones:

It’s the black ones that everyone is up in arms about. I’ve read bloggers calling them “f***ed up” and writing “F*** you Dolce and Gabbana”. Here are some examples of what the journalists have been saying:

From The Guardian, in the UK

http://www.guardian.co.uk/fashion/fashion-blog/2012/sep/26/dolce-gabbana-racist-earrings?newsfeed=true

“Some might argue that they’re harmless, even cute, but there’s nothing cute about two white men selling minstrel earrings to a majority non-black audience. …when you’re explicitly pandering to such a shameful era of western racism and colonialism, it’s time to move on to the future.”

So, when this English journalist sees images of black people, she thinks “colonials”.

From The Huffington post, in the US

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/26/dolce-and-gabbana-racist-earrings-_n_1914455.html

“The Mammy-looking figures recall a past of slavery and servitude that many don’t want to be reminded of–especially via a fashion statement.”

So, when this American journalist sees images of black people, she thinks “slaves.”

From Italy, I cannot find any journalistic comment whatsoever regarding the idea that these earrings may be racist.

Personally, when I see these earrings I think of Africans in Sicily, and that makes me remember they were conquerors of the island. They were never colonials and they were never slaves in Sicily, but they were the kings and aristocrats for several centuries. The legacy they left Sicily includes much of the Sicilian language, some stunningly beautiful buildings, and cakes with nuts in. And lots of clever stuff like maths and efficient agriculture.

Wearing an image of them dangling off your ears does look pretty eccentric, that’s for sure. But is it racist?

I can’t help thinking maybe it’s only racist if it triggers racist ideas you already had inside your head. And if so, is it the earrings themselves that are racist? Or is it you?

What do you think?

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Evil Eye paper cover

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68 thoughts on “Is this Racist?

  1. I can see where the American journalist was coming from. It is a very powerful image that most thinking and feeling Americans would find distasteful. I remember not too long ago sitting in front of a display window in a cafe in Sicily that had a huge display of “mammy” cookie jars—all wearing different colored aprons. American tourists would walk by utterly aghast at what they were seeing. Symbols are important, but of course they are (and should) be interpreted from a variety of points of view. Great post—I enjoyed this so much!

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    1. That’s interesting. I guess I saw it as people taking these things out of context, but actually, they are putting them into their own context. I guess as D&G is a global fashion label, they should consider all contexts.
      Does the US have a history of some kind of negative portrayals of black people that these earrings etc are specifically reminding Americans of? Or is it just any image of black people that bothers people?

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      1. The U.S. has a ton of negative portrayals of black people in decorative arts, particularly prevalent in the 19th century – dolls, cookie jars, cast iron banks, political cartoons, cast iron lawn jockeys, etc. etc. etc. There’s even a pancake mix whose personification is racist:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aunt_Jemima

        But as far as the Moors of Sicily go, yes, they came as conquerors; under the Normans, many unconverted Muslim natives weren’t precisely slaves, but they weren’t precisely free either (serfs, pretty much – especially around Monreale). Frederick II deported the remaining Muslims off the island in the 1200s, to the mainland at Lucera, where again they were a “protected” people. But after the Anjou took over, within 50 years of Frederick II’s death, the Muslim community was broken up and those who didn’t convert were sold into slavery.

        It’s a long, tangled, not easily explainable history – and I think the Americans and British consider those earrings racist because of the unfortunate similarity in looks between “mammies” like Aunty Jemima and the Moors heads. But both portrayals also represent the non-white other – one a servant/slave, the other a fierce terrifying warrior – neither seen as completely civilized.

        And I think back when I visited Rome years ago – when I told one person that my grandmother was Sicilian, I was told, “But you don’t look like an Arab!” I think they were trying to be complimentary.

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    2. Firstly these design’s are not racist at all. It’s not D & G’s fault that some people do not know their worldly history. If African- American people and any other people are disgusted by this then it’s clear ignorance. This is coming from a African-American born in Detroit, MI and raised for some time in Baltimore, MD. If anybody is stunting this fashion I hope they never feel guilty and wear it proudly. Knowledge is power.
      Peace.

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  2. This might be one of the first time british journalists did not their homework! For once they shared the ignorance that is usually an italian characteristic. Even though today’s Italy (and Sicily as well) is a racist country led by stupid politcs, the themes depicted are in my opinion not offensive at all.

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    1. This is pretty much my view.
      I have to say, the racism in Sicily feels like a top-down thing to me. In Milan, the hostility towards immigrants was almost something I could feel tangibly in the air, whereas Sicily is the only place I’ve spent a significant amount of time and literally never heard any white person saying anything racist. It’s the only place I’ve heard people expressing genuine understanding and sympathy for the horrible plight of African immigrants in Europe and the teribly tough time they have.
      The Italian government’s policy, on the other hand… I can hardly bear thinking about that.

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      1. That’s not exactly the Italian government’s policy…it’s more the way that policy is turned into everyday’s routine. But in general I agree…and that’s why people like me are forced to leave and move abroad

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      2. I saw a documentary a few months ago saying that Africa immigrants who have worked in Italy for as long as 30 years are denied official status, so that, if they lose their job, they have literally a few months to find a new one, otherwise, they have to leave. This also applies to children born to people with this status in Italy, even if those kids have have never set foot in another country. There was a teenage girl on the news recently, whose parents are Moroccan. She was pulled out of school and put into a detention centre for illegal immigrants when her parents became unemployed as a result of this financial crisis. I thought this was official govt policy??
        Are you saying you were literally forced to leave Italy? Or you left because you didn’t like it?

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      3. well…I am Sicilian (from Palermo) but I simply left Italy and moved to Paris because even as a Computer Engineer there’s almost nothing to do in terms of career….but that’s a long story.

        For the citizenship thing…it’s not that easy…some countries have “Jus soli” while other have “Jus sanguinis”. What is true in either cases is that we live in a society that is not mature yet to forget boundaries, color of skin or religion.

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  3. The sad thing is that, while racism and it’s effects are still widespread in the world, people who scream racism at every little thing are doing more harm than good, making those who are causing problems scoff and dismiss all claims of it.

    As you say, Sicily has a rich history, rich imagery and beautiful customs. The problem with people saying racism is that they’re imposing their *own* cultural filters onto Sicilian images; that because slavery existed in the US and in Britain, that these images are racist based on the histories of those countries.

    It’s frustrating to make people realize that the world is bigger than these two places!

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  4. When I saw these clothes, racist was last thing in my mind. I think it is common in fashion to use culture things and it is done all the time .
    Hindu Gods are used in t-shirts all the time and it is acceptable so I don’t think any different with this one.

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  5. The “racism” critics obviously know nothing about Sicily. Their loss. I had greatly enjoyed reading the (American) Vogue magazine article on the D&G collection a month or so ago, even though my only visit (so far) to Sicily consisted of one measly day in Taormina. But I learned a lot more from your post!
    I am also now remembering that one of our neighbors in Chicago, an old Italian guy, kept Shetland ponies in his garage, hitched them up once a week or so in nice weather to a decorated cart, and gave free rides to the neighborhood kids. This was back in the 1950’s-early 1960’s. I think I also remember a donkey!

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  6. Well, you’re clearly handicapped by both a knowledge of history and a tendency to think, the latter being something for which accusations of racism these days are often a substitute. Add, in the U.S. at least, everything is politicized by the Left folk and they dominate media and fashion.

    I think fashion can be pretty funny, beginning with the way they hang it on ambulatory zombies for display. But it seems besides entertaining, relatively harmless. It’s in the observer, not the observed that any racism flowers, as you said. Should fashion take inspiration from American Civil War uniforms, imagine the fun deciding the use of black zombies…er, models? Couldn’t win! A shame we can’t let clothes and jewelry just be…clothes and jewelry! If someone wants to wear politicized jewelry, haven’t they the right? Only when it pleases the Left, perhaps?

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  7. I’m not surprised that there are people out there who’d call this racist. Tolerance in our world has reached dangerously low levels and “to take it with a pinch of salt” is extinct.
    Media needs to realize that there is a thin line between being sensitive and being plain stupid. Calling this racist is sadly the latter.
    Nice post 🙂 glad to have come across it!

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  8. Since the Moors heads were not racist in their original intent, I do not think they should be considered racist today. They simply depict the ethnic diversity of the population (and perhaps show off the North Africans’ multi-coloured glazes).

    As a bonus, this ethnic theme has produced better than average looking designer clothing. I really like the cartwheel blouse. That is something I might actually wear (although I doubt that I could actually afford it). I also like the plates dress and the Moors head/cart wheel dresses. Even the shoes look like they would not lame you. I don’t care for any of the large earrings though.

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    1. I agree with your taste in clothes 🙂 I really like the cartwheel blouse too. I’d wear the dress with pupi on too (it it were a bit longer!!). The D&G website has close-ups of lots of shoes that I like. Like you, I wouldn’t fancy any of those earrings, which is just as well since they cost from 700 Euros upwards! (more than 800 dollars)

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  9. i am currently designing a new collection for dolce and g. as a project in fashion school. This post was amazingly helpful, your information has made me understand more this collection!!

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  10. As a black American this collection is offensive at first blush. As a student of fashion, i was prompted to get more information as to what the designers were attempting to portray. while the story is understandable, The “moor’s heads” in your post are not the same as the ones featured on the clothing and earrings. While the inspiration is evident, The round faced, large nosed, big lipped images in the collection are a spitting image of the type of 19th century racist kitsch used to depict blacks as ignorant servants and slaves in western society. While this collection is meant to portray Sicilian heritage, D&G is a global brand and has been for quite some time. it is vital to know how what you’re putting out affects other cultures. The average person is not going to take the time to research the story behind the collection and all of those who are offended aren’t themselves racist or have issues with race. It’s simply a matter of those images holding a certain meaning in certain cultures. Even after looking into it, I still don’t particularly like it. Because of what those images mean in my culture, outrage or offense will most likely be the reaction/response. I sent images from the collection out to my acquaintances (Of varying races) and simply asked them what their immediate feelings about these fashions were. The response was a unanimous “What the F**K” the clothes look cultural enough without the images white or black. This has emphasized to me the importance of knowing what I am presenting and doing extensive research. I wouldn’t want to create something that needs so much explaining to not be offensive.

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    1. That’s a very interesting explanation of the American perspective and thank you for taking the time to explain it in this detail.
      American friends of mine, of various races, expressed the same opinion as yours after reading this post – but unfortunately on Facebook rather than on this blog, which meant that in the end I felt that the overal selection of comments here was not representative of the range of opinions that I had received.
      It seems that the majority of commenters here said they didn’t think this was offensive, whereas the vast majority of Americans said (to me) that it definitely was.
      I saw the film “The Help” on TV after writing this post and it gave me some insight into the institutionalised racism present in the USA right up until very recently. I found the film very moving and very shocking. Although I knew about some of what was portrayed in the film, a lot of it was a real eye-opener for me. There weren’t any black people at all living in Europe till after WW2 so we don’t have a comparable history to the USA in that respect.
      I guess you made a very good point that D&G is a global brand and something whould not need “so much explaining to not be offensive”.

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    2. I understand you opinion. I don’t understand why you haven’t apologized for what African invaders did to Sicilians.

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    1. Hi, Sicilian Housewife here!
      I’ve approved this comment even though it is just a (chopped off) quotation from another blog post, as it links to that post which is a very interesting article about puppets, including Sicilian ones, and makes some relevant comments on the D&G collection.
      So, worth following the link for those interested in either fashion or puppets!

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  11. I, myself, as an African American thought that clothes were so racist on levels I thought couldn’t even be achieved… at first. After taking another look at all the clothing I realized how beautiful it all is. But I refuse to wear or fund a product that has a racially oppressive background. Although I’m ABSOLUTELY SURE that when they said the imagery was offensive, it was geared toward the blackamoor figures. Not toward the pretty colors of your nation. There’s more information on it here: http://www.theroot.com/views/blackamoor-chic-nothing-new
    PS: There were no black people living in Europe? Slavery existed there since the 15th century. And the movie ‘The Help’ was also unappreciated by a wide majority of the African American community based on the white savior trope.

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    1. Thanks for that link – That article was very interesting, and contained a lot of information about images/imagery of black people in Europe’s history that I didn’t know about.
      You’re right that there were always black people living in Europe, but they were a very tiny minority. Slaves were never a major part of the the economy in Europe as they were in America. It seems as if they had a very low profile and I’m not really sure why. For example I just found out recently that Alexandre Dumas, who wrote the Three Musketeers, was black. Obviously he’s very famous but the fact he was black doesn’t get mentioned much. That would be something interesting to learn more about…
      Did you think “The Help” showed that white girl as a saviour? I felt it showed she couldn’t actually change things, but that she was just one person who wanted things to change, and who tried to open other white people’s minds a bit. Though I do see what you mean as it was basically a story with a white person at the centre and the black characters shown in relation to her. Maybe that’s a more pointed way of getting a certain message through to white people? Not sure, but there’s a lot of interesting discussion we could have about it!

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  12. I am a Sicilian/Black American. My father is from Sicily and my mother a Black America. This blog is terrific I couldn’t help but write back and repost this. I think the problem is that we in America have such a color problem that it’s hard to see what rest of the world is doing. We have no perspective. I know Sicilians have shunned their link to the Moors but the acknowledging Moors conquering Sicily is a positive thing. I wrote this on my facebook when I reposted “I am loving this article. Do you think these earrings are racist if the earrings commemorate the Moors conquering Sicily created by not American Designer? And if so can only African Masks only be celebrated if they are from Africa directly and NOT from an African Conquered territory? Well, it’s definitely racist if the earrings were created by white americans but this is something I never thought of…even though I am half Sicilian.” I am looking forward to the response.

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    1. Hi! It’s really interesting to hear your opinions – thank you for commenting!

      I am not really convinced that Sicilians have shunned their links with the Moors. Of course the Moors ruled Sicily centuries ago, so it is not part of living memory but something people learn about in history lessons. Yet the Moors left their mark on pretty much every aspect of Sicilian culture, and the Sicilians often point that out and proudly perpetuate it. I’ve had many Sicilians telling me proudly while eating classic Sicilian cakes, and other foods (including all the citrus fruit), that these were introduced by the North Africans. They continue making and buying those Moorish head ceramics. They treat the Moorish buildings as national treasures and they also tell you enthusiastically how the subsequent conquerors (Norman French first) copied Moorish architecture, Moorish clothing, and Moorish customs.
      Even though numbers of Moors were kicked out when the Normans arrived, they were evicted by the new conquerors, not by the pre-existing population, with whom they had already integrated and in many cases intermarried. The Normans threw out the ruling classes of Moors in order to maintain their own military control of the island, and to eliminate the established administration to whom the locals felt bonded, NOT because they looked down on their culture. When northern Italians call Sicilians “Africans” they mean it as a grave insult, but to the Sicilians themselves, their African side is viewed positively and proudly.

      I doubt whether many modern Sicilians make a mental connection between the time they were ruled by Africans and the very large numbers of African refugees who come here nowadays. But what I can tell you is, they were extremely supportive of the African refugees during the Libyan crisis (Sicily was the only nation that sent boats out patrolling for refugee ships in danger, whilst the Maltese were routinely turning them away); I never once heard a single Sicilian complaining about the number of refugees, even though they became so numerous that towns were eventually running out of water; I’ve only ever seen people treat Africans here with respect. I’m not naive enough to try and say there’s no racism in Sicily, but I can honestly tell you that of all the places I’ve been in Europe and America, it is the least racist place. This contrasts remarkably with northern Italy, for example, where I was repeatedly left speechless by the open and extreme racism of the people there. (I lived in Milan for a year)

      Your perspective on the American attitude is basically what I suspected when I wrote the article, namely, that Americans have such a nasty history of racism – and too recently to be fading from living memory yet – that this taints their view of racial issues everywhere in the world. In all the interesting comments that the post received (and I had lots privately on FB as well, which I’m sorry aren’t shared here), the pattern that emerged very clearly reinforced this: My American friends and contacts were the ones who felt very decidedly, and strongly, that the clothes and earrings are extremely and offensively racist. The white Americans felt this just as strongly as the black ones. Meanwhile, the majority of people from other places seemed to take the milder view like mine, that maybe racism is in the eye of the beholder.
      So I think this does prove that whether we see racism in something depends on what we’ve learned and on our own cultural background.

      I suppose the big unanswered question is, should Americans be aware that these things are not seen as racist by the Sicilians who made them, and therefore not complain that they are racist?
      Or should Sicilians and others around the world be aware that to Americans they look racist, and therefore such imagery is taboo for everyone?
      I just don’t know the answer to that question!
      I personally share the Sicilian enthusiasm for their African heritage, and I love the idea of them celebrating Africans as conquerors – so often portrayed as the underdogs these days.
      Yet I know that an image tells a different story to everyone who sees it, and if people see something bad, their story is as valid as anyone else’s.

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      1. By the way, have you ever been to Sicily yourself?
        With your personal heritage, I bet it would be really exciting for you to explore the African-European cultural mix here, especially as it is not just in monuments but part of the living culture.

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  13. I hate them so much that angry person should throw the dresses and earrings at me in anger. Make sure they land in that basket I’m carrying. I LOVE IT! Of course, I’m also a history buff and am very aware of the Moors being settled in Sicily after the Moorish occupation was over.
    Awesome.
    (Don’t forget to pelt me with those dresses)

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  14. This may be old news but I’d like to know who hired those two spinner sharks who wrote the dribble in the Guardian and Huntington Post links provided above here. How ignorant of them to compare the Dolce & Gabbana Moor’s heads with the 19th century slave era folk art of the American South. What authority vested them to rewrite history or to tell people what things mean? Certainly, theirs is both a problem of faulty perception as well as a huge distortion of historical fact. Where’s the evidence that the designers were doing anything other than celebrating their sicilianità and the densely layered history of their island. And why not? What sort of hue and cry would there have been had they ignored a salute to the Moors all together in this collection. Would they then have been accused of discrimination by omission? Come on, let’s drop the politics this once and focus on the beautiful clothes, on art imitating art, on the incredible workmanship displayed and not take offense where there is no basis. Meanwhile I wonder who will take exception to the Dolce & Gabbana 2014 Winter collection which was obviously inspired by the sacred religious mosaics in the Cappella Palatina of the Palazzo dei Normanni in Palermo. This time, instead of folkart, the designers creativity reached for a higher level i.e., for the Judeo-Christian biblical symbols and saints and even some Islamic designs that cover the ceilings and walls of the Chapel. And what a fabulous job they did as the mosaics seemed to have been lifted off the walls and fashioned onto the bodies of the models. Nevermind what will people say about the chandelier earrings and necklaces replete with dangling crosses and religious medals. Again, art imitating art and fashion imitating faith. May be someday I’ll get lucky and see one of the stunning mosaics walking down the street and save myself a trip to Palermo to see the real thing. Lunga vita a Dolce e Gabbano and may they continue to gather inspiration from their surroundings and history.

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  15. Great post, showing how it pays to learn more before giving an opinion. I’m reading this a year late, but now I have the advantage of reading all the interesting comments too.

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  16. In America I would be furious with earrings like that because our history and contribution to this country has been abused till this day. I have a collection of racist memorabilia so I don’t forget and my children don’t forget how we were viewed. But! Not in your case. It is embracing their black history! They are not American mammies! They are Sicilians who are dark skinned.Also the whiter earrings could be black as we’ll !

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  17. Ok I’m a bit late in reading this, Firstly I’m loving the dresses but shall probably never afford a D&G one. Secondly, calling these clothes racist is just too much, what are these journalists pretending to be overly intellectual or what? I’m of mixed race (European & Asian), and really I think people take this racist thing too far (I won’t even go into that!). I love the way you’ve proved them all wrong, is post is magnificent! xx

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  18. Hi. Im not a member of “Word Press” but I just want to say I really enjoyed and appreciated reading your posts (this one and the one about Africans in Antiquity and their contributions in Europe and specifically, Sicily). Too often mention of Black and or Africa is connected with slavery and or colonization, dependency, destitution debauchery. .I could go on. Rarely however, do we hear about the legacy or as you put it, sunstantial contributions Africans have made. As someone also researching Africa in antiquity, I found your information to be highly informed and refreshing. As a Black American (an no, I cannot speak for my entire ethnic group) I did not find Dolce & Gabana’s line distasteful at all. From an informed standpoint it seemed to dually celebrate the history and unique culture of Sicily. As I stated in the beginning, despite an overall lack of general social awarness, Black people have a rich and lucrative history as well and it predates slavery and colonialism. I definitely agree that people who were offended took this line’s concept out of context and literally put it in their own. Why should we be “aghast” about seeing a black head?

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    1. Hi Tiffany! I am really glad you liked my blog posts.
      I have been learning so much about Africa since I have lived in Sicily – like most Europeans, I had no idea that so much of our culture was created by the Africans. Even some of the things they did not invent themeselves, they brought to us. I am learning more all the time. I recently learned, for example, that the Africans introduced playing cards to Europe: the card games people play in Sicily are still the same ones they play in North Africa.

      As you are researching Africa in antiquity, you’ll probably be interested in this post:
      https://siciliangodmother.wordpress.com/2014/02/13/sicilian-amber-the-tears-of-the-sun-gods-daughters/
      It tells the ancient Greek myth about the sub-saharan Africans, whom the ancient Greeks regarded as the gods’ chosen people – morally faultless, and superior to other humans. This aspect of the ancient Greek culture has always fascinated me, mainly because the poetry written by Homer about the sub-Saharan Africans is the most beautiful poetry I have ever read. At the time he wrote, Egypt was ruled by black pharoahs from further south. He conjures up an image of the Ethiopian Empire as a kind of paradise, something between earth and heaven, full of unbelievable wealth and beautiful, heroic people.

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  19. I see nothing wrong with this. Sicilians and all Italians originated in Africa and Asia Minor. I’m Sicilian Italian and do not consider myself white. They are also wearing stylized white people on their garments too, like Charlemagne. No one finds that offensive. No one means it to be offensive! Thank you for this article, it is tastefully written.

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    1. Hello,
      I decided to “chip in” on this comment line because of your intial question (s)
      Regarding positive Sicilian images in film and television.
      You are right about the dominance of the L’Cosa Nostra in both, and I’ve been curious to what the allure of these images are.
      I can proudly say; I haven’t watched one episode of the Soprano’s and I don’t plan to ever.
      I wanted to comment here because, I loved Italian cinema all my life, or as far back as I can remember, I was one of those weird kids that stayed in the house, even after the cartoons were over, to watch The CBS Children’s Film Festival which featured children’s films from all over the world, most of them, admittedly, pensive or morose, definitely introspective, and my tastes in film hasn’t changed much.
      Nouvo Cinema Paradiso (1988) is my offering to you…it’ll suit what ails you.
      And as far as positive images of Sicilians on the right side of the law…Il Commisario Montalbano, who doesn’t love Salvo?
      I love you and I love your blogs

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      1. Hello,
        I would answer your main question, (in paraphrase) do you see this line of fashion racist?
        In line with one of my fellow commentators above;
        Any woman in my range of view with legs like these models…I’m not going to notice what she’s wearing or has suspending from her ears, soorryy

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  20. Fascinating post, Veronica. Brings back images of Sicily… And I think your conclusion is right. Offensive language is hard to pin down because it exists in the relationship between the speaker, the hearer and the words themselves, but I think it’s true that in many cases accusations of offence or racism says more about the hearer than the speaker. I love the clothes. Some of them remind me of a skirt my mother had when I was very young. Are the moors the “same” moors as on the flag of Sardinia?

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    1. Oh, interesting question about the Moors on the flag of Sardinia. I am not sure if they were the same bunch! There were various caliphates in North Africa, politically independent, which variously conquered different parts of southern Europe. I think different caliphates ruled the same part of Europe at different times, just to confuse things further.
      The style of pictures does look fairly different, though.

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  21. Are you sure are you sicilian?your comments are like the classical italian americans who thin that italians are a bunch of mixed mulatto people.
    You need to study history, physical anthropology and genetics of the populations.
    1) the muslims of Sicily were berbers of mediterranean race and not black
    2) the muslims were completely expelled in 1239 by Federico II (see here http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Insediamento_musulmano_di_Lucera)
    3) genetics confirm that sicilians don’t have ssa blood and just 2% of berber ancestries (In Europe, E-M81 is widespread but rare, except in the Iberian Peninsula Spain, where unlike in the rest of Europe[Note 6] it is found at comparable levels to E-M78, with an average frequency of around 5%, and in some regions it is more common. Its frequencies are higher in the western half of the peninsula with frequencies reaching 8% in Extremadura and southern Portugal, 4% to 9% in Galicia, 14% in western Andalusia and 10% in northwest Castile and 9% to 17% in Cantabria.[19][34][35][36][37] The highest frequencies of this clade found so far in Europe were observed in the Pasiegos from Cantabria, ranging from 18% (8/45)[37] to 41% (23/56).[2] An average frequency of 8.28% (54/652) has also been reported in the Spanish Canary Islands with frequencies over 10% in the three largest islands of Tenerife (10.68%), Gran Canaria (11.54%) and Fuerteventura (13.33%).[38] E-M81 is also found in France,[2] 2.70% (15/555) overall with frequencies surpassing 5% in Auvergne (5/89) and Île-de-France (5/91),[39][40] in Sicily (approximately 2% overall, but up to 5% in Piazza Armerina),[41] and in very much lower frequencies in continental Italy (especially near Lucera) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haplogroup_E-M215_%28Y-DNA%29#E-M81)
    4) sicilians are genetically close to greeks and continental central and southern italians
    5) PCA plot, sicilians cluster genetically with south continental greece http://i.imgur.com/ZxnHR4s.png
    6) autosomal admixture.sicilians are much less nw african (caucasoid and not ssa) influenced than iberians, ashkenazi jewish and maltese http://i.imgur.com/zEWYC8B.png
    7) http://www.geocities.ws/racial_reality/sicily/
    8) this is what real sicilians and southern italians look in real life http://italicroots.lefora.com/topic/375/Southern-italians-how-we-really-look?page=1

    Like

    1. I don’t really know what to make of your comment.
      Are you saying you don’t like talk of the North African input into the Sicilian culture and gene pool? I live in the Palermo province and everyone I know here is very proud of it. You could read this post if you want to learn more about exactly what they are proud of:
      https://siciliangodmother.com/2013/05/20/what-have-the-africans-done-for-sicily/

      You say the Muslims were expelled by Federico II in 1239. You are right. But what is your point?

      And your genetic information sounds about right too. My son and husband were genetically tested and Hubby came back 4% African, with 1% of that sub-Saharan African. You would never think of it to look at him – when we go to England he looks like the average English person. He and my son both have the E1b1b1a4 haplotype which is an African one. But again, basically, so what?

      Maybe this is a regional thing. Are you American? I have had a few messages from distressed Americans who seem to suffer from a pathological obsession with skin colour and racial classifications. So let me clear this right up for you. When talking about Sicilians we are talking about Europeans, and here in Europe, we Europeans consider all indigenous Europeans to be white people. We don’t care whether they have blue or brown eyes, olive skin or freckly skin, fair hair or black hair. In Europe we have been invaded by north Africans (twice), by Huns from Asia (9th and 10th century) and by Mongols under Ghengis Khan (13th century). All these people stayed and blended in with the local population and subsequently, we Europeans have repeatedly invaded each other so many times that we have lost count. We are completely mixed up genetically and, frankly, we don’t care. So, my dear “100% italic,” neither should you.

      Like

  22. I love this post for two reasons, the comments/debate and the beautiful images. I don’t think it’s racist at all, people tend to project their own insecurities onto creative works of art. I adore how D and G quote so liberally from Sicilian history and icons it’s timeless. Americans are really quite anal about this kind of stuff, political correctness is rife and they are terrified to offend people. I once had an American editor who wanted me to change the title of an article I wrote about ‘the black Madonna of Tindari,’ it became ‘dark skinned’ as the colour is not P.C ….

    Like

    1. Thank you Rochelle!
      I love all the comments too. I am fascinated by everyone’s point of view and after the whole debate, I still think that what we feel when seeing these images is our own hangups or prejudices.
      “The dark skinned Madonna of Tindari?” That’s just plain funny!

      Like

  23. Hi there! My mother(a fine example of Pittsburgh WASP) used to sell those “Moor heads” and the “pupi” in her pottery shop in Noto(Syracuse). The Moors depicted in Sicilian art are either kings(emirs) or knights, not slaves nor “mammies”. This concept simply does not exist in Sicilian history and culture. After the Norman conquest, both sicilians of muslim and christian orthodox faith were prohibited to take public office and to bear weapons in public, but at the same time muslim literates were kept in high esteem at court, muslim judges and engineers kept their places, and soon the Norman Kings became more and more reliant in their Sicilian Muslim troops, that kept protecting that kingdom literally until the end.

    As a Sicilian by right of blood and birth, but as a US citizen as well, I have to say that those earrings(all of them) are something noone should ever wear mainly because they are kitch, not for race related reasons… Though In case they’d be used alone(i.e. not with a matching outfit), they would definitely give a racist connotation(so you’d look like a racist moron with no taste or style, booo).

    D&G could have simply proposed those earrings as a black&white combine and that would have been it, though they would still look godawful…

    And now back to reading your blog!!!

    Like

  24. I’m superlate but I just found this blog and I loved this article. I was born and raised in Taormina, Sicily. I moved to Rome to go to University but I always come back here on holiday because my family is here as well as my heart (I’m writing from my terrace facing Mount Etna and the Naxos Bay right now). Dolce & Gabbana come here in Taormina often for photoshoots and inspiration, and as much as I think some of those items are a bit kitch, I’m happy my culture is represented and appreciated by people who wouldn’t be able to see it unless they visited Sicily
    I understand why Americans were horrified by the black Moor heads: the US has a long and bloody history of racism, slavery and systemic/institutional oppression that still causes huge problems and injustice (like all the recent cases of police brutality toward black people). However, I hope they googled a bit of Sicilian history then and found out the Moors were basically kings here. They conquered and ruled Sicily, married local women and built monuments and cities. Taormina, for example, still has greek, roman, arab, norman and even byzantine buildings/monuments, which we treat like the most precious things we have. Our food, language, music, culture and traditions were deeply influenced by them and we’re really proud of that. I read in some places of the world the term “moor” is considered derogatory: it is absolutely not the case here in Sicily.

    And about Federico II kicking the Moors out: many Sicilians still worship Federico II because he was way ahead of his time and he did so much for our culture. His mentors and teachers were arabs (and the fact that he was so close to the arabs pissed the Pope off, so he was often called “heretic”, “emir”, “disciple of Muhammad” and “baptized sultan”), and his court was the cultural centre of the world at that time. He was loved and followed by the people, to the point that you can still witness Sicilians leaving flowers on his tomb inside the Palermo Cathedral. They called him (we still do) “Stupor Mundi”. Any decision he made against the Moors, later in life, was purely political, never, ever racial.
    I think Americans are a bit obsessed with the cultural concept of race (which is understandable, given their history and the current events), but please, remember the rest of the world wasn’t “created” in the same way as your Country, nor at the same time. African people already existed way before the “slavery chapter” of history, their culture was celebrated and part of it became the foundation of ours.

    I don’t know if non-Sicilian people can fully understand how proud most of us are of our rich cultural heritage. Ancient Greeks, Romans, Normans and Moors are our fathers, modern Greeks and NorthAfricans our cousins. The fact that some people know us only because of the Mafia is so sad (google Falcone & Borsellino, or Peppino Impastato, who are considered heroes by all the honest Sicilians who fight against Mafia, btw).

    I know some people might ask “are Sicilians fully white then?” (and Italian-Americans usually say “hell yeah why are you even asking” because they faced discrimination too in America and don’t want to risk being considered “less worthy” than WASPs, I understand that – and it’s so fucked up). Well, all I can say is that race is considered differently here. In our mind, European=white, it’s simple and it’s enough for us when we have to pick a box on forms that ask what our ethnicity is.
    But to be honest, we have people with blonde hair, blue eyes and fair skin (like Normans) and people with dark hair, dark eyes and dark olive skin (like Moors) within the same family (my grandma and her twin sister were like copies in different colours, it was so weird lol), and it’s perfectly normal, we don’t care about skin color that much. The world is not black or white (literally!), there are many shades in between and if someone told me “technically, you’re mixed” I’d be fine with it. What we care about the most is our cultural identity – we feel Sicilians and Mediterraneans first, then Italians, then Europeans. I think that’s beautiful.

    Sorry if I wrote too much but I’m very enthusiastic about my motherland, and sorry if I made mistakes, English is not my first language (obviously)!

    Like

  25. I’m superlate to the party but I just stumbled across this blog and I loved this article. I was born and raised in Taormina, Sicily. I moved to Rome to go to University but I always come back here on holiday because my family is here as well as my heart (I’m writing from my terrace facing Mount Etna and the Naxos Bay right now). Dolce & Gabbana come here in Taormina often for photoshoots and inspiration, and as much as I think some of those items are a bit kitch, I’m happy my culture is represented and appreciated by people who wouldn’t be able to see it unless they visited Sicily
    I understand why Americans were horrified by the black Moor heads: the US has a long and bloody history of racism, slavery and systemic/institutional oppression that still causes huge problems and injustice (like all the recent cases of police brutality toward black people). However, I hope they googled a bit of Sicilian history then and found out the Moors were basically kings here. They conquered and ruled Sicily, married local women and built monuments and cities. Taormina, for example, still has greek, roman, arab, norman and even byzantine buildings/monuments, which we treat like the most precious things we have. Our food, language, music, culture and traditions were deeply influenced by them and we’re really proud of that. I read in some places of the world the term “moor” is considered derogatory: it is absolutely not the case here in Sicily.

    And about Federico II kicking the Moors out: many Sicilians still worship Federico II because he was way ahead of his time and he did so much for our culture. His mentors and teachers were arabs (and the fact that he was so close to the arabs pissed the Pope off, so he was often called “heretic”, “emir”, “disciple of Muhammad” and “baptized sultan”), and his court was the cultural centre of the world at that time. He was loved and followed by the people, to the point that you can still witness Sicilians leaving flowers on his tomb inside the Palermo Cathedral. They called him (we still do) “Stupor Mundi”. Any decision he made against the Moors, later in life, was purely political, never racial.
    I think Americans are a bit obsessed with the cultural concept of race (which is understandable, given their history and the current events), but please, remember the rest of the world wasn’t “created” in the same way as your Country, nor at the same time. African people already existed way before the “slavery chapter” of history, their culture was celebrated and became part of the foundation of ours.

    I don’t know if non-Sicilian people can fully understand how proud most of us are of our rich cultural heritage. Ancient Greeks, Romans, Normans and Moors are our fathers, modern Greeks and NorthAfricans our cousins. The fact that some people know us only because of the Mafia is so sad (google Falcone & Borsellino, or Peppino Impastato, who are considered heroes by all the honest Sicilians who fight against Mafia, btw).

    I know some people might ask “are Sicilians fully white then?” (and Italian-Americans usually say “hell yeah why are you even asking” because they faced discrimination too in America and don’t want to risk being considered “less worthy” than WASPs, I understand that – and it’s so fucked up). Well, all I can say is that race is viewed differently here. In our mind, European=white, it’s simple and it’s enough for us when we have to pick a box on forms that ask what our ethnicity is.
    But to be honest, we have people with blonde hair, blue eyes and fair skin (like Normans) and people with dark hair, dark eyes and dark olive skin (like Moors) within the same family (my grandma and her twin sister were like copies in different colours, it was so weird lol), and it’s perfectly normal, we don’t care about skin color that much. The world is not black or white (literally!), there are many shades in between and if someone told me “technically, you’re mixed” I’d be fine with it. What we care about the most is our cultural identity – we feel Sicilians and Mediterraneans first, then Italians, then Europeans. I think that’s beautiful.

    Sorry if I wrote too much but I’m very enthusiastic about my motherland, and sorry if I made mistakes, English is not my first language (obviously)!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That was beautiful, and you explained so well the things I have tried to explain so many times on my blog, about how Sicilians feel so proud about their mixed heritage, how precious the foreign things are in Sicily, and how odd the Americans’ way of seeing race seems to us in Europe.
      I wish I could write Italian as well as you write in English!!! I am very impressed!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I agree! I love the way she wrote it…what a together young Woman.
        Do you realize, that over half the people in states that don’t favour President Obama, “Blacks” and “Whites” suffer from the condition of not being fully comfortable with his racial identity…not his politics.
        Yea! We’re messed up over here, that’s for sure…
        Here’s something entertaining;
        Taking two different areas of the Caribbean;
        In Cuba, an individual with very fair skin, light hair and eyes etc.
        will proudly proclaim their “Africaness”
        And in New Orleans, the Northern most point of the Carribean, a very very dark individual, with characteristics generally considered African, will tell you that they are not African at all.

        Liked by 1 person

  26. Thank you both (I can’t reply directly to your comments because my WP account is acting crazy – that’s why my previous comment posted twice, sorry about that)!
    I guess people always need to label things as clearly as they possibly can, they create defined boxes where they put everyone in and if someone defies the system, they freak out. We humans love to oversimplify things. Obama is an excellent example: some people are not even concerned with his politics (uhm, after 8 years of Bush administration, what did you expect exactly? Peace in the world and money in your pocket? Obama had to deal with the consequences and with the Conservatives constantly trying to cut off his legs as he walked. The guy has all my respect), but with his being mixed race and thus not so easy to put in a box. I’m so sorry for all the mixed kids who suffer discrimination both from their white peers (“you’re not white enough”) and black peers as well (“you’re not black enough”, “you can pass for white! white-passing privilege!!!”) and feel like they have no real identity. As if, again, all the world was divided into black & white.

    I invite the Americans of all complexions to come to Sicily on holiday at least once in their life and enjoy our food, our sea, our art, our traditions and most of all our genuine happiness in welcoming foreigners and sharing with them as much of our culture as we can (and, of course, in learning about theirs too).

    Liked by 2 people

  27. I just spen 15 days in Taormina! I fell in love with the place, the people and the food! Oh the food! Yet i was never big the ceramic art but while visiting with people and talking to shop owners about thier product i found a new love for this art! The people of Taormina, while most are wanting you to buy things so they are friendly and courtious after visiting their shops and getting them to tell you about the iteams they open up and you see the pride they have and it us heart warming!

    Like

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