Arts and Culture
My study looks at European descriptions of East Asian cultures within the framework of Italian anti-colonial narratives. I explore the six-parts television series produced in 1976, Sandokan – a fictional pirate fighting British colonial powers in Malaysia – in relation to the display of Asian anti-colonial movements in the Feste dell’Unità, festivals of the Italian Communist Party (1965 and 1975). Both Sandokan and the Feste dell’Unità went beyond entertainment and political models by offering imaginaries composed by ethnographic descriptions, literary topoi, and journalistic narratives. Sandokan made his first appearance in 1883, in the novel by Emilio Salgari (1862-1911) Le Tigri di Mompracem, as a character contradictory hinting to Italian colonial ambitions, and romantic poetics in which the epic liberation from European oppressors is presented as a crucial step towards human progress. In the 1960s and 1970s, the updating of such a nineteenth-century milieu happened in the light of geopolitical changes, such as the Non-Aligned Movement of 1965, and in turn became the means for describing contemporary anti-colonial perspectives. During the last decade of the Vietnam War (1955-1975), an emblematic form of such a poetics, influenced by a new ethnographic language, appeared in the Feste dell’Unità where the Việt Cộng (the soldier of the National Liberation Front, or Victor Charlie as called by American soldiers) was mainly represented within the context of a peasants’ movement. A real and fictional character that soon would make a perfect pair with the baby-tigers (tigrotti), the soldiers of Sandokan’s army, crossing the Southeast Asian seas.