Sight Unseen

HD video, 2019, 18':47"  

Omar al-Mukhtar (1885-1931) was the leader of the organised resistance against the Italian colonisation of Libya (1911-1943). He became the symbol of Libyan people’s resilience and has been greatly celebrated and exploited both by the Gaddafi’s regime and the armed groups currently fighting over the control of the Libyan territory. In Italy, his name remains unknown – yet, it briefly appeared in the media during Gaddafi’s first visit to Italy in 2009. Indeed, the colonel emerged from his plane in Rome, wearing an image of Omar al-Mukhtar in chains, surrounded by the Fascist Army as he was taken to his execution by public hanging. While researching this event in Rome, I came across a controversial history of concealment and appropriation around the memory and documentation of Mukhtar’s  final days and spectacularised state killing. Sight Unseen reflects on such history through the analysis of visual and material culture that has been subject to either manipulation or obfuscation in Italy. These materials include the most complete - but legally unpublishable - series of images of Mukhtar's capture and execution; Mukhtar’s contested glasses and purse; the Hollywood production The Lion of the Desert; and Monumento al Carabinire,  a memorial to Italian armed forces in Turin. In this way, Sight Unseen attempts to portray the carefully orchestrated politics of visibility and invisibility that shape the memory of colonial trauma in Italy.

Developed while in residence at the British School at Rome.