But something caught my attention as I came out of the market, a slogan that goes “camminando per il mondo” (literally, walking across the world). And it dawned on me that I was actually, in some sense, traveling across the world through the books I scanned and the native products I just checked out right at the heart of Genoa's old town, by the Palazzo Ducale to be exact.
Palazzo Ducale was built during a period when Genoa gradually gained economic power over the whole Mediterranean, right after its victories against Pisa in 1284, and against Venice in 1298. The slogan welcomed visitors to the 2010 exhibit of the “Premio Chatwin”, the ninth edition of the prize dedicated to traveler and writer Bruce Chatwin. This edition involved journals, photography and videos of travels done in various parts of Africa. But what really captured my interest was the big panels of illustrations sprawled across the entrance hall of the Palazzo.
“Unchildren, infanzia negata (childhood denied),” by graphic illustrator and author Stefania Spanò with Francesca de Lena who provided the text for the exhibit, features 17 illustrations depicting the many tragedies affecting children all over the world. The pain and horror of the various forms of violence committed against children, from child prostitution in Cambodia to forced labor in Pakistan and children with AIDS in Ethiopia, oozed through the “seemingly friendly cartoon” images.
The images were disturbing, but I could not stare away from them. I believe that most of who I am now is an accumulation of those crucial episodes I experienced as a child. I thought: hey, mine was not that easy either, but seeing “Unchildren” made me realize that I am still among the luckier ones.
When my friend texted me asking if I was able to find a place where I could have lunch, I replied: No, but I did find the world. When he came to pick me up, he asked if there was some place else that I would like to visit. I said I was fine. And so we drove up the elevated part of Genoa and in what seemed forever, I joked: “'Are we lost?” Yes, we were. We took the wrong road and so we had to go back.