Revelations from an Island in Time

— Elena Isayev

Beyond the Nation State

For self-definition and positioning, more significant than the border, even on an island, is the centre – relationally conceived. Where do the vectors converge? According to one ancient legend, Ichnusa was the omphalos (belly button) of the known world at the intersection of a Mediterranean-wide meshwork. In past centuries it had more links with communities in Spain and North Africa than with those in the East. Today’s Italy extends to encompass ancient Ichnusa – still anchored to the same spot on the Mediterranean sea-bed. But from the perspective of the island the gaze appears to extend over the Italian Nation State into the wider world beyond, re-centering, and asserting autonomous imaginaries.
Despite the border – even one etched into topography confined by the sea – the land defies coherence, as fragmentation encourages multiple co-existing cultures and challenges connectivity.

Stories and Experiences

Tensions appear between, on the one hand, personal stories of wide-reaching journeys that lead to participation in intercultural discourse, alongside public hi/stories and myths of interconnectivity, greatness and originality, while on the other hand, the need to respond to perceptions of home as colonised and victimised over generations. The friction brings into question the meaning and practice of autonomy and cohesion, and with it challenges to contexts of helplessness and inevitability, through acts in the now.
The WE of personal stories appears more diffuse and encompassing than when used in reference to the telling of history, where it takes a more concrete and seemingly definable form. This apparently stable historic WE seems to dissolve when inspected at close range, with diverse migrant images and immeasurable intersections: the custodians appear multiple and shifting over time.

Host – Guest – Hospitality

There is a fine balance between curiosity and risk in hosting travellers, especially those whose mission and journey are unclear, and who are not easily definable as a group – emerging from disparate traditions, places or languages. Such heterogeneity of the travellers influences the creation of environments for open, yet challenging discourse. The absence of defined goals allows multiple voices to determine its direction, leading to unexpected and unintentional discoveries, but with the pre-condition of suspension of disbelief.
Pride in traditions of hospitality, related to place and community, intersect with a questioning of which elements and expectations are universal in host-guest relations. These wider practices of hospitality are infused with unique touches and actions inspiring adaptation and translation. They are also affected by personal histories and mis/understandings that can lead to both absolute generosity and transgression.