Roberta Vitali – desert is magic

Roberta Vitali – desert is magic

On the fly to Tunisia I had only one desire: to go beyond what I had already seen and stop taking normal photos of beautiful places, to start taking beautiful photos of normal places. But immediately I ran into a difficulty. What was really normal in a world so far away and so different from mine, where habits, traditions, culture and history still seemed uncontaminated by globalization?

Then I simply let myself be captivated by the timeless charm of that cone of land that winds between Libya and Algeria. Down there the warm and intense light conveys an absolute sense of solitude and serenity that transports you into a vibrant dimension of energy. It is like an ancient and powerful force: the same that permeates the vast expanses of sand and aridity. The effect of that light is in every fold of the faces of those who live and work in the desert, making bricks, grazing cattle, sleeping in dilapidated huts. I met families of nomads and semi-nomads and in their traits dug by fatigue I saw the weight of a very hard life. On that skin, marked by deep furrows, are imprinted the signs of the scorching sun, sand and wind. The hollowed cheeks and protruding cheekbones reflect the fatigue and hardness of a life long tested by the shortage of water, food and rest. Yet those faces tell stories of courage, wisdom and resilience that reveal an authentic beauty, shaped by the inner strength of those who struggle daily to survive. Different, but perhaps even more scratchy, is the look of the children, at first a little lost in front of the camera but, immediately after, resolute and penetrating. I struggled to imagine that this life of poverty, so far from the comforts and comforts of the Western world, would continue to flow relentlessly even after my passage was too rapid for me to fully grasp its weight and meaning.

On the other hand, the sensations that arose from the encounter with the Berber populations and their millenary traditions of welcoming, simple, very poor people were different. Yet it is not uncommon to see their smiling faces peeping out from the houses of the villages where they live. In Matmata, Toujane and Zammour the troglodyte dwellings are dug into the clay soil that swallowed me up when, with a little reluctance, I had to sleep there. I do not hide that I was frightened by that direct contact with nature that, instead, offered me a comfortable shelter in which the initial fears melted into the unexpected sweetness of its protection, so contrasting with that primordial force coming from the wild energy that is released in that apparently hostile and mysterious environment, especially for those who do not know it. But it is precisely there that an authentic reminder of our connection with nature, our ability to adapt and our search for meaning in a complex world can take place: it is a place where, as if by magic, strength and fragility seem to merge into an eternal dance.

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