Lasciare Libero Grazie
Photo Series
Ornella Mazzola

Since 2021 I have started a story about a group of girls and teenagers growing up in one of Palermo’s most historically complex and problematic neighborhoods: Danisinni. A neighborhood of Arab origin, it stands on a natural depression, as it was once the bed of the Papireto, one of the rivers that ran through Palermo.

Mainly because of the morphology of the land, Danisinni over time has remained isolated from the rest of the city, almost suspended between the green of its fields and Palermo’s historic center.

Its isolation is anomalous given that the neighborhood is within walking distance of the cathedral and the city’s historic center.

It is a place that has long been trying to revive and regain its strong identity.

Various forces have in recent years chosen to plant seeds here, starting with Brother Mauro (a Capuchin friar), working hard on a daily basis, focusing on the neighborhood’s resources, beauty, children and youth, and art declined in all its forms, until it slowly flourished again.

A popular legend has it that Danisinni’s name was derived from that of the Arab princess Aynsyndi, the daughter of an emir who in 916 had her home built right next to the Papireto riverbed.

This is a tale about young women, about freedom, about Palermo and its feminine power that overwhelms and disrupts.

It is about the street, childhood and adolescence.

It speaks of a group of girls and young women growing up in the streets of this neighborhood, it talks about play, anarchy, friendship, sudden and disruptive beauty.

It speaks of silence and screaming.

A garage shutter where the words, “Lasciare Libero Grazie” (Leave free passage, thank you) stand out seems to be almost a poster and is the corner where they often gather during their afternoons.

Some days the sun dazzles more than others and illuminates everything, and blinds.

The girls enliven the neighborhood, make it alive, their voices fill the air, their shadows stand out and faithfully accompany them….

The days that pass never the same, but always in the same streets, the complicity, their codes and purity, the horses that symbolize the neighborhood, the disruptive, light-filled emotions that remind us that life, in its essence, is nothing but this.

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