The focus of this project is a long mountainous route with some of Sicily’s most spectacular scenery, a craggy, dramatic landscape that was the site of fierce fighting in the short Sicilian campaign of WW II. In July 1943, Canadian brigades landed on the south-eastern corner of the Sicilian island near Pachino. For the next 38 days they battled a 200-kilometre route of sheer gullies, knife-edged ridges and boulder-strewn river beds, towering cliffs and steep ravines, grappling with the German forces entrenched in the high hill towns and fortresses along the way.
Like the mythical phoenix, Sicily has for millennia arisen repeatedly from the ashes of invasion and destruction to form herself anew, incorporating the residue of previous cultures and civilizations into each new expression of her timeless countenance. Echoes of the short yet intense Canadian campaign still reverberate in the quiet depths of this partially countryside, and in the memories of the people, both Sicilian and Canadian, whose lives intersected briefly in this place and time.
My passion for Sicily and its rich history has been a force of creative inspiration since the time I lived in Palermo from 2000 until 2003. During this period I was repeatedly struck by the devastation left from the allied bombings of July1943. Even at the beginning of the 21st century, much of the remaining rubble and ruin still littered the historic city centre, with the local inhabitants residing both in and around these crumbling, majestic structures. I heard stories from the local people about their experiences during the war, the shock of bombing and invasion, and their interactions with the young allied forces. Whereas the physical traces of this devastating conflict had been long expunged or sanitized in other western nations, in Sicily, this isolated corner of Europe, the remains have endured in their evocative decay, cradling the inhabitants in a memorial to destruction seemingly frozen in time.
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