A bit of Sicily is coming to Hamilton
Exact replica of Racalmuto’s statue of beloved writer will be mounted here
Beloved Sicilian writer Leonardo Sciascia could hardly be imagined without the sidewalks and streets of Racalmuto from which he was inseparable, dipping his words into their sights, sounds and characters; the coffee house was his studio.
So when Giuseppe Agnello set about creating a memorial statue of Sciascia after the writer died in 1989, the renowned sculptor knew the street had to be part of it.
And that’s where he set his monument to the man — on Racalmuto’s main drag (Via Garibaldi), where Sciascia had been wont to mingle, an ink in the waters of community. The sidewalk is, in effect, part of the work.
Now in Racalmuto pedestrians pass by Sciascia in midstride, lifesize, one hand in his pocket, the other holding a cigarette, with eyes that — like the eyes in some paintings — seem to follow you everywhere, ready to strike up a conversation.
The writer, walking. Still circulating in the traffic of his people.
But to be truly among his people, that sidewalk must stretch, figuratively, across an ocean to Hamilton, Ont. And so it will. This summer, work starts on the installation of a special sidewalk on the grounds of LIUNA Station, Immigration Square, and there the exact same statue of Sciascia, recast, will stand.
(It will have to be set at least nine metres from the building, of course, as he’s smoking. Just kidding.)
“It all came up by happenstance,” says Hamilton lawyer Charles Criminisi, whose family is from Racalmuto.
“We met the sculptor over drinks and someone brought up the idea, ‘What if we were to get you to do a bust of Sciascia for Hamilton?’ One thing led to another and it evolved from a bust to a full-body replica.” Why Hamilton? I hardly need to ask. Most know that Racalmuto and Hamilton are twinned, and that there are fully four times more Racalmutese here than there are in Racalmuto itself, such has been the success here of the Sicilian diaspora.
“It’s not common to make an exact replica of a statue in another country and I was told by someone in the Italian media that this is a first,” says Gabe Macaluso, who was with Charles, Mayor Fred Eisenberger and several others in Racalmuto last year. They were there to mark the 30th anniversary of the twinning, and it’s where the idea to commission the sculpture began.
The story of the Hamilton commission has already been picked up by Corriere della Sera, a national newspaper in Italy and several other radio and TV outlets.
“They are so proud of us in Racalmuto,” says Charles of their feeling toward the children of Racalmutese immigrants.
Sicily, he notes, was a beachhead in the Second World War and sadly lay in the path of much destruction, but is enjoying something of a renaissance with tourism, replanting fields with olives and grapes (becoming a kind of “new Tuscany”) and some stunningly old archeological finds.
“I hope this (the statue project) will open up more channels of exchange.”
Hamilton architect Rick Lintack is designing the sidewalk portion.
The Sciascia Project is costing between $40,000 and $50,000 — the money has been raised through a targeted donation campaign — and the manufacturing and materials will come from Europe, overseen by sculptor Agnello (who is also originally from Racalmuto), says Charles.
Most Racalmutese in Hamilton are familiar with Sciascia (19211989) and his work.
He wrote novels, plays, essays, political commentary and also served in politics. His writing was very popular in Italy, not just Sicily, and even beyond and “The Day of the Owl” was made into a movie in 1968 starring Lee J. Cobb and Claudia Cardinale.
“Everyone knew him,” says Gabe.
“He reminds me of a Hemingway type, where you’d go into a local bar and there he’d be.”
The statue in Racalmuto is famous, and in the town now stands a large library/cultural centre named after Sciascia, one of the grandest public buildings there.
The statue at LIUNA station will be unveiled Sept. 22.
They are so proud of us in Racalmuto. LAWYER CHARLES CRIMINISI MET WITH SCULPTOR
Racalmuto man: Statue portrays Leonardo Sciascia walking the streets.