The Telegraph
Tuesday , March 7 , 2017

Italian reveals Salgari novel mismatch

- Incongruity between author's books on Guwahati & reality documented

Artistic director Paolo Rosso and curator Alice Sartori in Guwahati on Monday. Picture by UB Photos

Guwahati, March 6: Nearly 150 years after Italian novelist Emilio Salgari wrote four stories with Guwahati as the backdrop, an artist-cum-scholar from the European country has landed in the city and documented the incongruity between the text in the books and reality.

Salgari, who had 200 adventure stories and novels to his credit, wrote four books - Quest for a Throne, The False Brahman, An Empire Crumbles and Yanez' Revenge - set in 19th century Guwahati although he had never visited the state.

"Salgari's books had exaggerated descriptions like existence of huge underground sewer, marble buildings in Assam and the Brahmaputra full of fearsome creatures," said Alessandra Messali, the artiste-cum-scholar.

Messali got down to find the incongruities between what Salgari had written in his books and what was in reality at that time in Assam in consultation with historians and teachers of different colleges and captured them in her project, Emilio Salgari and the Tiger - A Story Written in Far Away Italy, set in Guwahati 1870.

She will put the findings of her project in video format during a nine-day exhibition - Good Horn, Good Brakes, Good Luck II - at the district museum beginning tomorrow.

Messali is part of a group of six artists from Italy who have been in the city for the past two months, exploring the city, its surrounding and cultural peculiarities. The team is part of the project, The Guwahati Research Programme, by Italian art organisation Microclima, led by Paolo Rosso as its artistic director and Alice Sartori as curator.

"The Guwahati Research Program brings young artistes based in Italy to Guwahati where they are encouraged to gain an understanding of the local context and then develop on site projects and cultural observations based on years-long in-depth exploration," Paolo said.

It was in 2011 that Paolo had started the programme when he had visited India looking for "interesting things" and came across a faculty of the design department of IIT Guwahati and gradually realised that Assam being a multicultural and ethnically rich state would suit his project.

Besides Messali's video installation in the exhibition, Giuseppe Abate will present a series of embroidery textiles, Riccardo Banfi will showcase a photographic series, I found myself in Guwahati, and Matteo Stocco and Matteo Primiterra will present another video installation highlighting the contrast between the two parts of the city located on either side of the Brahmaputra.

Paolo said he loved travelling and exploring things and has two other residency projects at Santiago in Cuba and Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia.

The exhibition is the second chapter of the namesake exhibition that took place in Venice in August 2015. The title of the exhibition has come from a popular motto connected to the safety programmes that exist to counter dangerous traffic situations.

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