Chapter 5 The Italian Gaze on Black Venus

In: Exploring the Black Venus Figure in Aesthetic Practices

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Camilla Erichsen Skalle discusses the near-comprehensive presence of Black Venus figures in Italian colonial propaganda during the so-called ‘scramble for Africa.’ Building on the work of Giulietta Stefani, she shows how these figures are crucial in the construction of a virile Italian masculinity that comes, later, to define and dominate the fascist era. Within this construction, Africa, often described metaphorically as an exotic-erotic Black Venus, serves, paradoxically, as the site for both masculine re- and, possibly, degeneration. Italy has never come to terms with its colonial history, thus the Black Venus tropes and metaphors continued to appear also after Italy’s colonial and imperial defeat. Focusing on the male and imperial objectifying gaze, Skalle demonstrates how the very same stereotypes structure and influence what have come to be seen as the first novels to critically engage with Italian imperialism and the fascist ideologies of masculinity: Ennio Flaiano’s Tempo di uccidere (1947) and Mario Tobino’s Il deserto di Libya (1951).…