Classics in the street |Upside down. Palermo’s rivers between nature, history and art.

A network of 24 schools, associations and institutions in Palermo
Coordinamento di / Coordinated by Isabella Tondo
Video a cura di / by Miriam Cossu, Antonio Macaluso
Con il patrocinio del Comune di Palermo / Under the patronage of the Municipality of Palermo

Intervengono /with: Isabella Tondo, Emilio Ajovalasit, Anna Cannizzo, Tiziana Menegazzo, Erika Messina, Preziosa Salatino, Anna Sorci, Patrizia Veneziano

The river cannot turn back. Nobody can turn back. Going back is impossible in existence.
The river must accept its nature and enter the ocean. Only by entering the ocean will fear diminish, because only then will the river know that it is not about disappearing into the ocean but about becoming an ocean

(K. Gibran)

In 2013 the “Classics in the street” project was born in Palermo, a network of schools and associations of Palermo committed, together with the University, in promoting the knowledge of the classical texts through the medium of theatre, realising events in the streets and squares of historical neighbourhoods such as Ballarò, Brancaccio or Danisinni, with a high rate of immigration, social discomfort and school drop-out. This project, now in its ninth year, plans to study in the gym studios, sewing clothes, mounting lights and plants, painting panels, rewriting texts and representing them on stage. It is not just a matter of making the works of antiquity known in a ‘direct’ way, but, above all, to trigger or grow, through the subversive and denunciatory force of a classical text or its theatrical realisation, reflection on the great theme of violence, exclusion, conflict. The text becomes a ‘pretext’ to meet, the thin thread to stitch together distant realities.

Since 2019 the project has become part of the cultural proposals of the Municipality of Palermo and has been extended to new schools and territorial realities. For this year’s theme – Upside down. Palermo’s rivers between nature, history and art – we started from a look at the city, as it once was, as it is now. We travelled along ancient streets on which rivers flowed, now invisible, sunk ‘under’ the ground yet present, palpitating (Papireto, Kemonia), which during heavy rains re-emerge ‘above’ the road surface with unexpected fury and return to flood the city with disastrous results. We explored in archives, museums and libraries ancient paintings and maps of Palermo, a true river city, rich in springs and waterways that fed fountains and canals, bathed rich cultivated fields and flowed towards the great port. We read myths and legends about water in squares, streets and courtyards to rediscover the origin of the places we inhabit and to try to draw a new map in which increasingly aware citizens can finally live in harmony with nature and the surrounding landscape, certain that we are, all of us, a river called to flow, sooner or later, into the same sea.