Mediterranean Sea – wooden sculptures by Luigi Camarilla

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Mediterranean Sea (Spirituality, Myth, Present Time) is a series of 32 sculptures by Sicilian artist Luigi Camarilla, made out of the wood of fishing and migrant boats abandoned on the southern coast of his home island.

Arranged in a pagan, mystical pilgrimage sequence, each of the sculptures represents an altar to a different emotion, virtue or ideal: the Altar of Patience, the Altar of Silence, the Altar of Knowledge, etc. The altars were recently exhibited at European Commission buildings in Luxembourg and Brussels. On other occasions, images of the altars have been displayed along a public staircase, as in Caltagirone in 2006 (see video below, with English subtitles).


The catalogue of the full sequence of altars is available here.

The Mediterranean Sea altars are closely linked to some of Camarilla’s larger sculptures, also made out of the wood of migrant boats confiscated by the Italian maritime authorities, now public momuments in Sicily. Issue 1 of Le monde n’est pas rond includes a photograph of one of these larger sculptures, designed as a bench for Ulysses. In the commemorative sculpture below, installed in Siracusa, Camarilla explains: “The arched uprightness of the work evokes the waves of the sea … which have broken forever the hopes of men, women and children on the run from the social suffering afflicting their home countries. The apotropaic eyes, ancient symbols painted on the bows of the boats to protect sailors from the perils of the sea, represent a warning, indicating how these tragedies occur for all the world to see. In these eyes, there is the indifference of those who, though knowing, pretend not to see; there is the human involvement of those who, instead, watch with a spirit of solidarity but are impotent; there is the consternation of the escape of those who survived; and there is the last look of those who died in hardship, or swept away by the waves of the Strait.

Commemorative sculpture for emigrants, Siracusa, Sicily

Commemorative sculpture for emigrants, Siracusa, Sicily

The sculpture is accompanied by a short poem, penned by Camarilla himself: 

Towards the circus of this fluorescent civilization
towards this lighthouse of illusions
at night direct their escape
boats full of hopeful men.
They know the trafficker captain
holds Charon’s oar in his hand
they know of the Strait
waves are wandering graves decorated with foam
they know and go away
because staying is not more worthy than dying

Luigi Camarilla

Born in Ortygia, Siracua, in 1959, Luigi Camarilla attended art school in Milan, where he still lives today. From 1996 to 1999, Camarilla retired to the island of Stromboli to work on his Mediterranean Altars and other projects. His artistic work has been exhibited in Italy, Luxembourg, Belgium, and Brazil.


About antoinecassar

Poet, translator, editor, activist
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