Pantomime of U Pisci a Mari


Andrea - CC2.0

The pantomime of "u pisci a mari" is a popular tradition of Acitrezza that dates back to the first half of the 18th century.
This pantomime is a propitiatory rite, a parody of the swordfish fishing that took place in ancient times in the Strait of Messina. In Aci Trezza the same scene is repeated every year, on the occasion of the feast of the Patron Saint John the Baptist , but with a comic and exaggerated touch. Everything takes on a very folkloric aspect. The boat, decorated with red and yellow flowers and ribbons, is lowered into the sea by three fishermen. Some fishermen remain on the dock to follow the stages of fishing. The "rais", who stands on the pier, is the one who shouts and directs the fishing by shouting traditional phrases in dialect, moving, in a threatening manner, a cane of fresh leaves on his right hand and an umbrella on the left. The fish, in the first part represented by an expert swimmer who stealthily plunges into the mirror of water theater of the pantomime, hiding among the numerous boats full of people who observe the event more closely and yell at the protagonists, encouraging them. The "rais", from the top of a rock, spots the fish-man and sends signals, shouts phrases in ancient slang and encourages the sailors to capture him. And then, after several attempts, the fish is caught and lifted on board amid the applause of the audience and the festive sound of the band crowded on the pier, but the fish quickly manages to escape from the hands of the fishermen who are ready to cut it into slices. The fishermen therefore swear against bad luck and the desperate "rais" throws himself into the water in an awkward way. The pursuit of the fish continues, and thus begins the real fight with the prey that is again skewered, wounded and captured, and with the sea that is tinged with its red blood. Two fishermen who are on the boat firmly hold the fish-man by the arms and legs and, while they threaten to quarter him with a large cleaver, he is now agitated, aware of his fate. But after struggling for a long time, he manages to escape again, throwing the fishermen into despair. In the end, with the strength of desperation the fishermen continue to row, with the "rais" sighting the prey again, which this time is a real fish, a tuna or a shark previously immersed in the waters of the pier, which is finally captured and is sliced. When the actors, who are all fishermen from Aci Trezza, scream the goodness of the meat, with the people cheering and the band playing incessantly in celebration, it really seems over for the fish. But a few meters from the landing he finally escapes, disappearing among the waves. The spectators shout, the "rais" swears and throws himself into the sea, and at the end the fishermen in despair overturn the boat, amidst the succession of dives by the young spectators in the sparkling sea, which under a summer sun close the event once again honored, or the umpteenth representation of man's continuous struggle to survive in these places.

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