There are about 1,500 potentially active volcanoes worldwide, above and below sea level. Aware of the danger they could pose, undeterred by the monstrous mythology they generated, an estimated 500 million people live close to them.
From the peak of Stromboli, one of the most active volcanoes in the world, you can see two villages crawling on the slopes, caught between the craters and the Tyrrhenian sea. The mountain and its rumbles set the rhythm of life for the residents of Stromboli, pervading the territory with an energy that makes the fragility of human life almost tangible.
Summer 2019 hit the island with two major eruptions, one of which made a victim. Excursions to the craters are indefinitely closed and the islanders, whose economy relies on tourism, wait for the high season with concern. For centuries the Mountain has embodied the identity of the island, writing its chapters of history. It forced most people to emigrate after the fatal eruptions of 1919 and 1930 and it gave some the possibility to come back, attracting tourism and new jobs in the 50’s, after Roberto Rossellini chose the island to shoot Stromboli Terra di Dio. Residents have no way to know what this new chapter will bring. They go by their routine, and every morning they look up at the smoke of the craters to see in which direction the wind blows.
Working on the ancestral relationship between mankind and volcanoes I realized how the craters function like a broken time-machine that connects our imagination, intermittently, to the past of planet Earth, its future, and to other planets. Stromboli, with its black mountain looming over, the strength of the elements and its inebriating smell of autumn flowers, reactivates the kind of sensibility that gets lost in the routine of the city life, the one that enables us to see death as a part of life.
Residents call the volcano “Iddu”, Sicilian for “He”, like a god who can’t be named and a friend you live with every day.