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di Salvatore Bonaccorsi
We have seen how the Sicilian Tarot game is one of the rare examples of ancient games with a non-standard deck still practiced in Italy (Bologna, Piedmont and Lombardy) and elsewhere in Europe.
For those who practice the game with a certain continuity, it becomes a pleasant and continually surprising playmate. Today this opportunity can be grasped only in one of the four "historic" towns to have preserved its tradition (Mineo in the Catania area, Tortorici and Barcellona Pozzo di Gotto in the Messina area, Calatafimi-Segesta in the province of Trapani), or in Catania, where the Sicilian Tarot Game Cultural Association - Michael Dummett (founded in 2014) takes care of spreading its knowledge and competitive practice. The permanence of the game is documented in the exhibition by photos from some of the above towns, while the Association's activities, which also include tutorials and workshops for children and adults, contribute to the knowledge and diffusion of the game.
Even the fact that the symbolic-iconographic apparatus of the cards can activate new ideas in the area of Sicilian creativity can prove decisive in nourishing that shared imagination that alone can guarantee the continuity of a tradition. The Exhibition and in the present Section offer various forms of evidence of this process, all linked to the symbolic universe of the deck. [Figure 1: Photo A.G.T.S. Activity at the Tocatì of Verona]
Re-Designing the Tarot. Lelio Bonaccorso is a messinese artist who, over the years, has carved out for himself a prominent role in the chaotic and competitive comics world in Italy and beyond, from illustration to journalistic graphic fiction, from children's educational comics to those providing sheer entertainment. With his dynamic and communicative trait that spans a number of different styles, under the impulse of a different kind of artist also inspired by the world of the Sicilian Tarot (musician Giancarlo Parisi, who is also a multi-instrumentalist in the field of traditional music), Lelio has faced the creation of a new "Sicilian Tarot" with the humility and respect that entry into a little-known world requires. Hence his choice not to reinterpret but rather re-design, in keeping with the original colours and indeed recovering some philological characteristics of the earliest decks, lost in the Modiano version, which aimed at the immediate legibility that a gaming deck required and still requires. [Figure 2: a Triumph (the World) or an image of Lelio Bonaccorso at work]
Re-Writing. Valentina Butera, a young artist from Palermo, approaches the theme in a personal way. Starting from the names and meanings of the traditional allegories, she sets out on a journey without constraints in search of new "free associations" by which to recreate the images related to each Trionfo. To guide her inspiration, a love of history, real, legendary or literary characters, and the myths and places of Sicily. This new, re-written narrative, accompanies us in an original and heartfelt transversal journey through the centuries and the events affecting the island. [Figure 3: a Triumph (the World) by Valentina Butera]
Creating Atmospheres 1. Maria Mantegna. In this artist's work, the immersion in a medieval, chivalric imagery has always been a necessary step to sublimating on the canvas a representational magic that, in the overlapping of characters and scenes, refers to the Old Masters' allegorical paintings or battle scenes, as well as the popular charm of the Opera dei Pupi or the narrative posters of Sicily's last storytellers. In "Tarocchi Siciliani", commissioned specifically for the Exhibition, Maria Mantegna focuses on few elements to create a fascinating composition with a Wheel of Fortune that becomes a Knights' Joust that comes alive under the apparently static vision of a Mount Etna, whose dynamics the Catanese know all too well. [Figure 4]
Creating Atmospheres 2. Cesare Basile. In the musical field, beside the evocations clothed in traditional instruments by Messina-born Giancarlo Parisi, the creator of an ensamble called "I Tarocchi Siciliani", the world of the Sicilian Tarot has become an inspiration for Catanese singer-songwriter Cesare Basile, winner in 2015 of the Targa Tenco for the best album in dialect. Outside all preconceived schemes, Cesare Basile has created an album, where bitterness is laced with with blues and African themes, on his rejection of a vulgar economic power to which to bend uncomplainingly, using a living dialect, a true "language" shared by the card players, a set of stories and visions of fear and defeat that culminate in the song that gives the title to the album "U Fujutu su nesci chi fa?" (i.e., "if the Runaway leaves, what happens?") The character of the Fool, who in Sicily takes on the role of one who has the courage to "not be there" and flees from the rule that he does not accept, becomes the protagonist of the obsessive refrain with the sequential enumeration of all the Trionfi. Superimposed on a Game of the Goose board, a colourful Runaway becomes the protagonist of the cover. [Fig. 5: Cesare Basile album cover]
Creating Atmospheres 3. Gian Mauro Costa. In contemporary fiction the writer and journalist from Palermo Gian Mauro Costa has used some peculiarities of the language of Barcellona Pozzo di Gotto players to help his hero, an electrical engineer with the habit of getting involved in mystery plots, solve a case. Thus in a story entitled "Atlas' New Year's Day" (2012), Enzo Baiamonte solves an amusing case by discovering the names of some Sicilian Tarot cards.