Massimo Nicolaci

I Carusi

Sicily, for its past history and for its multiple influences and contaminations, is a place that preserves and sends forward a long tradition of faith, linked to Christianity, which has a large pagan and theatrical part connected to the populations that live there.

The man, the Sicilian, needs a hold on something extra terrain. He needs something that goes beyond everyday life. This manifests the theatricality of a people, shows its traditions and highlights its popular culture.

It is a physical manifestation, a staging, made of flesh and sweat, of cyclical rituals and appointments. Where the individual, together with his own community, detaches from the everyday, leaves his social situation and becomes something else, where he comes close to something higher, even for just a moment.

It is a great excuse to seek one’s own redemption on earth.

From 3rd to 5th of February, Catania dedicates a great celebration to the Saint, a mixture of faith and folklore. According to the tradition, when the news of the return of the Saint’s relics arrived in 1126, the bishop went out in procession through the city with bare feet and a night robe, followed by the clergy, nobles and the people. The origin of the traditional dress that devotees wear in the days of the festivities is controversial, the Sacco agatino: white coats and gloves with a black skullcap on their head. A deep-rooted popular legend is related to the fact that the citizens of Catania, awakened in the middle of the night by the sound of the bells when the relics were returned to the city, poured into the streets in a nightgown.

Other typical elements of the feast are the silver reliquary where the relics of the Saint are placed in turn on a chariot or Vara, also this one in silver.

Tied to the vehicle are two cordons of over 100 meters to which hundreds of “Devoti” cling, who untiringly pull the cart until the 6th of February. The reliquary is carried in procession preceded by the twelve candelore or “cannalori” each belonging to the corporations of the city craftsmen.

Everything happens between the wings of a crowd waving white handkerchiefs and shouting “Cittadini, cittadini, semu tutti devoti tutti”. It is considered one of the three most influential Catholic festivals worldwide.

Since many years out to Sicily, I was back in Catania, in the city where I was born, to take pictures at the sant’Agata festival.

There are many legends around this festivity, which are the “Candelore”,  the votive candles that precede the Saint in the procession.

It is said that there is a use of money from the mafia around this celebration, that the bearers use drugs to support the effort and that there are clandestine bets around that.

I had the possibility to be put, in natural way, near the butchers candelora (à cannelora ri chianchieri) arround 2011.

My intention is to narrate the human world, i Carusi (the guys), that keep moving around this big candle. Is a material ritual, bodies, fisicitys, a men’s world, that have eyes only for one woman, the lovely, Agata.

This project represents the reconnection to my origin and to the culture that I left, to then return to Sicily and try to understand some parts of me.

I found myself in everyone of them, in every single Caruso.

Short Bio

Massimo Nicolaci (Catania, 1989), since 2006 attended several workshops by Obiettivo Granieri: Lorenzo Castore (2006/2007), Michael Ackerman (2007/2008), Morten Andersen (2011). In 2008 he moved to Rome from Sicily. On 22 June 2009, one of the young photographers chosen to participate in the “First Impression” portfolio reading organized by Magnum Photos in collaboration with the Photography Gallery in London. In March of 2010 he moved to New York. At that time, built a small photographic project called NYCIt prefers the work of wide-ranging, including: Catania (since 2006), Rome (since 2008), Paris (2015 / 2017), Berlin (since 2009), New York (2010). In 2013 he photographed the Conclave with Christopher Morris (VII agency) for Time Magazine in Rome. In 2015 he is still photographer in the new film by Alessandro Comodin, “Happy time will come soon”. Since 2008 collaborates closely with Lorenzo Castore.Since 2010 collaborates with Michael Ackerman (Camera Obscura Gallery – Paris). In July 2017, he released his first book LA CERVA BIANCA – La Biche Blanche published by LUCE and Shellac Sud. Now he lives in Berlin.

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