The Poetry of Belonging
Episodic Memory and Italian and South African Shades
The essay develops a postcolonial perspective on Italy and South Africa based on the writer’s experience of rural developmental work among predominantly Zulu-speaking people and on five main points of connection between that specific locale and the Italian cultural horizon, from Roman times to World War II: Language, Accounting, Spirituality, War and Literature. Central to this cross-cultural encounter is the writer’s direct and intimate involvement in both cultural spheres and the way this is representative of the working of ‘episodic memory’, i.e. the psychic mechanism by which moments and people of the past are made to live again in one’s inner world in the guise of ‘shades’ and crucially contribute to shape one’s sense of belonging. This is a phenomenon that literature has always known, and which this essay exemplifies also by means of original poems that complement the theoretical insights exposed on pre- and post-colonial Italy and its connection with contemporary South Africa.