Sicilië en de zee: a Dutch tribute to the Mediterranean

by Francesca Spanò

Two countries, hundreds of people, one sea: the Mare Nostrum, celebrated by the Netherlands with the exhibition “Sicilië en de zee“. Promoted by the Italian ambassador in Den Haag Francesco Azzarello, the show opened on October 8th at the Allard Pierson Museum, with the presence of Sebastiano Tusa, Sovrintendente del Mare della Regione Sicilia and Wim Hupperetz, director of the museum.

“This is the first time that such a rich and complete exhibition is realised far from the Italian borders, especially related to Sicily”, Tusa said to +31mag.nl, “I think the relationship Holland has with the sea had a great influence in investing time and resources into this project”.

Bronze Statue of God Reshef X-VIII sec b.C.
Bronze Statue of God Reshef X-VIII sec b.C.

The exhibition has several purposes: reveal a piece of the Mediterranean history, by bringing ancient artefacts from the waters surrounding the Trinacria (the ancient name of Sicily) to the Netherlands; emphasize the humanitarian scenario of migrations rugarly traversing the Mediterranean Sea; finally, to remember the importance of the underwater archeology, a field mostly unkown to the public.

The archeological section, which is the biggest part of the entire exhibition, shows a chronological path from the Phoenician to the Cristian and Byzantine art, passing through Greek and Roman findings. Among them, fundamental are the Punic coins from Cala Tramontana (Pantelleria island), the rostrums from the Egadi Battle and the Arabic-Norman bronze situla from the shipwreck occurred in Lido Signorino. But we can also find amphorae, tools, architectural elements, military equipments and trade ships findings, in a journey coming to present from the depth of History.

A second exhibition is linked to the photographic gallery ‘Aankomst op Lampedusa’, in which Sara Prestianni focuses on migrants arriving in the little Sicilian island of Lampedusa. The photographs thus underline the role of Sicily and the Mediterranean Sea as a crossroad of peoples, even in contemporary history.

Tusa himself has always been interested in migratory flows, this time finding the right support from the Pierson museum. “This is not an issue about Sicily or Italy. This is a global issue which interests everyone”, explains Renè van Beek, curator of the exhibition, “We felt obliged, telling a story about the Mediterranean, to put a focus on such an important issue as that of refugees.”

Aankomen op Lampedusa © Sara Prestianni
Aankomen op Lampedusa © Sara Prestianni

The gallery presents also a UNESCO campaign for the preservation and supporting of the underwater heritage. One of the purpose of the exhibition is to stimulate the sensibility about underwater researches and the related international treaties: “Some objects which come from the Liparian Islands has been illegally collected during underwater researches in ’80s and they were taken here. We discovered them while we were preparing the exhibition.  Once it is over, they will come back to Sicily.” as Van Beek specified.

Sicilië en de Zee will remain in the Netherlands until April 16, 2016. Then, the exhibition will travel across Europe, far from the Mediterranean, and eventually coming back home, in Palermo.


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