Memorialization and representation of immigrants in contemporary Italy: The case of Mimmo Paladino’s monument ‘Gateway to Lampedusa/Gateway to Europe’ | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 6, Issue 2
  • ISSN: 2040-4344
  • E-ISSN: 2040-4352



This article is a critical reading of Mimmo Paladino’s ‘Gateway to Lampedusa/Gateway to Europe’, a memorial built in Lampedusa to honour the lives of thousands of immigrants who died trying to reach Italian shores. It considers how the monument’s ambiguous representation of migrants reveals the deeply contradictory position of Italy towards the mass immigration it has experienced in recent years, and it contextualizes the creation of the memorial in 2008, the year Berlusconi’s third government began. The close analysis of Paladino’s bas-reliefs illustrates the iconographic reification of old colonial stereotypes that essentialize and dehumanize the immigrants in order to separate them from the supposedly superior Italians. Ultimately, the article argues that the Gateway to Lampedusa reflects an ideal vision of Italy that is rhetorically crafted to support a culturally and racially pure image of the country. Thus the representation of immigrants is intrinsically tied to Italy’s process of self-definition that both accepts and rejects aspects of the historical past in order to maintain a self-image grounded in cultural and social heterogeneity.


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