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:
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
“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
“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?