Drawn from the memories of daily life growing up in Asmara in an Italian-Eritrean family, Mamma Demmechesc reveals episodes of racism, segregation and profound uncertainties but also joy and discovery – all of which left a mark on the author’s childhood.
Gently, and with a childlike gaze, Enzo – now a lively octogenarian – tells us about his own life and recounts the story of his Eritrean mother, who lived for ten years with an Italian settler.
Enzo’s testimony is particularly valuable because it offers the opportunity to embark on a historical journey, reliving the era of the Italian colonies and of Fascism as if in a movie, from the perspective of a unique family. Through Enzo’s eyes, we try to understand Salvatore – an engineer, a creative inventor, a family man, a Fascist – who, despite everything, is fond of the young Demmechesc, Enzo’s beloved mother. All sorts of colonial exploitation are explored here – the “mixed-race” ghetto of Asmara, the illegal work (even child labor), the hidden relations – as seen by the protagonist, who experienced it first-hand, as a bright, strong, and affectionate child.
The forgotten crisis, the drama, the violence and the cruelty of that era are smoothed over by the optimism of the child, then the boy and finally the man. Indeed, as a grown-up Enzo reclaimed social redemption, along with his mother and his seven siblings.
In the afterword, Angelica (who gathered and edited the author’s tales) retraces the historical contours of the colonial era, investigating the context which led to racial laws, to violence against women and to slavery. She touches on the collective denial of the whole experience and laments the impunity granted to those responsible.This book helps us to understand human values and the importance of communities. It reminds us how behind the narrative of every war, behind tales of persecution and of colonization, there lies the true story of children, women and men.
Today, mothers like Demmechesc live on and persevere in Afghanistan, in Syria and in far too many other places still ravaged by war.
known as Enzo, was born on the first of May 1939, in Asmara, when Eritrea was part of the Italian East Africa colony. During his long and eventful life – driven by strong determination and ambition, and by a profound love for his family – Enzo lived in Saudi Arabia, the United States, Russia and, finally, Italy. Thanks to his expertise as a technician specialized in the maintenance of grounds operations vehicles and in power plant installations, he worked in countries such as Lebanon, Jordan, Mexico, Chile and Canada, as well as in Eritrea. He speaks fluent Tigrinya, English, Arabic and Italian and gets by in Russian too. This is his first book: a tribute to the lives of his mother Demmechesc and of his beloved wife Adriana, who passed away in 2014.
gathered Enzo’s stories, wrote them down, and put them together, to create this book. An author in her own right, she has a degree in literature, with a thesis in Cinema Aesthetics. She has studied screenwriting, been a film critic and ghost writer, and is an assiduous radio listener. In 2023 she entered the wonderful world of podcasts, and is working on a variety of programs. Angelica is passionate about communications and media and currently teaches “audiovisual language” in a Roman high school. She loves cinema, travel, animals, friends and unexpected adventures. She lives with two turbulent and brilliant children, with whom she communicates freely… at least in theory.