When she speaks you can make out the Modenese accent, or the cadence from Pavullo to be precise. But only recently has she been made rudely aware of the colour of her skin: «Since I got into politics. My opponents use it to denigrate me. But I carry on forwards».
Valentina Mazzacurati, 29 years old, an Italian father and a mother from Rwanda, former model for Armani and Blumarine, fashion entrepreneur with her own knitwear line called Drew and Co. She has a single passion: politics, which took her first into the Lega and then in Forza Italia where she rose to the national coordination level. Recently she has once again got closer to Matteo Salvini’s party. She does not share all their views on migrants, yet her own views can be rather surprising:
«I am all for humanitarian corridors. There should be an assessment of the reception capacity for refugees and in case we could also include economic migrants. But the ports must remain closed because it is not just down to us Italians to deal with this problem. And I didn’t like it either when a parliamentarian from Forza Italia went aboard the Sea Watch. My priority is safeguarding those Italians facing difficult circumstances and finding solutions for improving the situation in Italy, not these».
Valentina Mazzacurati, a mother from Rwanda and an Italian father, how does your story begin?
«Like many. My father had gone to Rwanda to work, he worked in infrastructure. He met my mother and they fell in love. In 1986 they came back to Italy».
In Pavullo, in Frignano province, a small town with 17 thousand inhabitants, things cannot have been easy for a mixed couple…
«My mother was the only woman of colour in the whole town. She is as black as coal. She is a Tutsi. People would stare at her but she managed to impose herself. She studied, she learned Italian and she worked for an insurance company. The situation improved after a while. Back then, people were less distrustful of foreigners».
And how did a black girl find it at school, despite being Italian?
«Let’s say I only took notice of the colour of my skin when I got into politics and I started getting attacked on social media for this. I’ve never experienced being marginalised. I lived my life. I did communication studies and I will complete my law degree. I work in a legal firm but my main business is in fashion and I’ve created a clothing brand with my husband, who already worked in this sector. We have a five year old son. I used to be a model but I gave it up as I wanted to continue my studies».
And then came your political engagement…
«I feel like a rare beast because of this. Politics has not been able to engage young people and young people are not interested in politics. In 2010, my best friend’s mother stood as a candidate in the local elections in Pavullo. As a challenge, I got involved. But perhaps that was already in my DNA as I was a class representative at school. The Lega polled at 2% at the time in Pavullo and they took me in with open arms. I had become a symbol of their anti-racism. But I never went to the party conferences in Pontida or Venice. Even though I feel more Pavullese than the people from Pavullo».
Then you joined Forza Italia. And some of your statements against the member of parliament Stefania Prestigiacomo who visited the Sea Watch have caused quite a stir. Can you explain them to us?
I put a sense of humanity above all else. But by closing the ports the Italian Government wants to send a message to the rest of Europe. It is Europe with its lack of interest that is devoid of a sense of humanity towards migrants. Even though, we should clarify, that the ports were never truly closed. I think Italy is a sovereign country, just like France or Germany, which, however, don’t want to deal with this issue. Closing the ports does not mean “they can stay where they come from”. Those who flee from war or poverty should be able to land in the closest port available. However, this doesn’t mean that Italy should be solely responsible for their reception
You have recently left Forza Italia and you’ve got closer to the Lega again. Why?
«Silvio Berlusconi has not been able to move aside. If one speaks of the future, they should invest in the future. The Lega may have issues but it has a strong leader who could well be the leader of the centre-right coalition. The party however lacks a moderate wing».
Have you been to Rwanda, back to your roots?
«No, I’ve never been. Even my mother only went back four years ago after leaving the country thirty years ago. The situation has been difficult for a long time. There is a war there. But I think about it a lot. I think about how lucky I was to be born in Italy and go to school. And I think it’s not a child’s fault if they were born in a country where there is a war or hunger, or both».
Many Afro-Italians, especially the young or very young, sometimes hide their origins thinking they will be more easily accepted o integrated….
I don’t speak Swahili, my mother’s language. To tell you the truth I don’t even speak French like my mother does. I’ve met many new Italians who try to hide their origins and this is a mistake. But you also need good balance. Italy is a welcoming country but with some peculiarities. In Modena saying that tortellini come from Bologna is blasphemous. When my mother sometimes wore her traditional dress I told her she was mad. But that had nothing to do with hiding our origins. I just thought it was out of place. I believe that our roots and our culture are an essential part of our life
traduzione di Costanza de Toma