Alessia Petrolito / Mis[s] (Turin)
Mis[s] (2021) by artist Alessia Petrolito
The installation Mis[s] reflects on the positions of the female characters of the Younger family in Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun, showing how much of what it means to be Black woman has been misunderstood, omitted, or poorly translated by society. To create this artwork I analyzed the language in the various translations of the play, as well as read the essay “Animale da Palcoscenico” (“an animal pushed to perform for third party pleasure”) by Italian Black writer Espérance Hakuzwimana Ripanti. This contextualization helped me to reframe the Younger’s Black experience—to understand the motivations of each of the characters, as well as the gaze of the play’s external audience spectators.
Mis[s] is the prefix for Mis/interpret, Mis/sing, and Mis/translated.
Unspoken and untranslatable feelings hover over the characters of Lena, Ruth, Beneatha—and even Hansberry herself. Frustration, misunderstanding, sexual objectification, and social stigma unite black women across place, time, age, and even language and culture.
For me the contemporary in Espérance Hakuzwimana’s essay shares the essence of the politically astute playwright Hansberry. An awareness of Black women sought as “spectacles” (“show whores,” or animali da palcoscenico), as prey eaten by industries of entertainment.
THROUGH MY CONTRIBUTION TO THE EXHIBITION, I DEMONSTRATE HOW INTERTWINING TRANSLATIONS CAN SHED LIGHT ON THE DARKNESS OF MISINTERPRETATION
This installation of Mis[s] consists of four, titled frames: Mis[s], Hands, Raisin Twist, and Pushed to Perform. The content combines appropriated, public domain stills from the cinematic and theatrical productions of the original play; as well as text excerpts from Espérance Hakuzwimana’s E POI BASTA – Manifesto di una donna nera (first edition published in 2019, by People S.r.l.) translated by Gabriela D’Addario.
It is also significant to note how the Italian translation of A Raisin in the Sun is “Un grappolo di sole,” which means “A Grape of Sun.” The Italian title dries up significance by diminishing the connection between dream and struggle in the Black experience, instead of the metaphor of the raisin as inspired by Langston Hughes’ poem “Harlem.” Again, my own interest extends to analyzing the practice of misinterpretation as an oftentimes intentional form of content manipulation that takes advantage of the thin line between political and cultural adaptation for the audience’s sake. While analyzing the Italian versions of the original play—a written translation of the play, and a film dubbing—I discovered missing aspects of Black womanhood. Cultural gestures and social framing (especially of daughterhood, marriage and motherhood) have been diminished, censored, overlooked, or unfocused.
Perhaps predicting her own broad reception of the work, Hansberry writes of language and translation in the play itself, through a quote of one of the multilingual characters, Joseph Asagai:
“Well, let me see, I do not know how just to explain it. The sense of a thing can be so different when it changes languages.”
bORN IN ATLANTA (USA), adopted and rAised in Northern Italy
BIO: Alessia Robin Petrolito (ArP) gained her BFA at the Albertina Academy of Fine Arts in Turin, Italy. She moved to Chicago in 2013 where she obtained a Master of Art in Visual and Critical Studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. ArP presented at the 5th and 7th ICAR – International Conference on Adoption Research in Auckland NZ (2016) and Milan (2021). Her work was featured by Joan Flasch Artists’ Book Collection (Chicago) and at NAVEL (Los Angeles). She currently lives in Italy and finds a place for her experimental research at the disciplinary intersection of Visual Studies, Literature & Translation, Adoption Research, Perception, and Art Theories, among others.
For more information on the book E POI BASTA please see the following link: