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POLITICS

Italy rejects China’s bid to stop an art show by ‘Chinese Banksy’ rebel

An Italian city is going ahead with plans to host an art exhibition by a Chinese dissident despite a request from China's embassy to cancel it, the mayor said in comments published Friday.

Badiucao, a Chinese cartoonist whose anonymous political satire earned him comparisons with Banksy - and the wrath of Beijing - outed himself as a former law school student who became politicised after watching a Tiananmen Square documentary in a dorm room.
Badiucao, a Chinese cartoonist whose anonymous political satire earned him comparisons with Banksy - and the wrath of Beijing - outed himself as a former law school student who became politicised after watching a Tiananmen Square documentary in a dorm room. (Photo by Odd Andersen / AFP)

The exhibition by Badiucao, a cartoonist also known as “The Chinese Banksy”, is expected to denounce Chinese political repression and censorship of information on the Covid pandemic.

The show, called “China is (not) near,” is due to run from November 13th to February 13th in the northern Italian city of Brescia, about 100 kilometres east of Milan.

Brescia Mayor Emilio Del Bono told Il Foglio newspaper on Friday that his office would not comply with a request from the Chinese embassy in Italy to scrap it.

He said the friendship between the Italian and Chinese people “is not in question”, but “I think it is important to show that you can stay friends while criticising some things.”

The deputy mayor, Laura Castelletti, earlier tweeted that “For us art and freedom of expression are an essential combination.”

Her message accompanied pictures of newspaper reports about the alleged censorship request from the cultural affairs office of the Chinese embassy in Rome.

Local paper Giornale di Brescia has quoted a letter from the cultural office to the council, in which it complained that Badiucao’s works “are full of anti-Chinese lies”.

READ ALSO: Spike in reports of ‘racist’ abuse of Chinese people in Italy

It alleged that they “distort facts, spread false information,” mislead the Italian public and “jeopardise friendly relations between China and Italy.”

The cultural office closed the letter expressing “strong dissatisfaction” with the exhibition and asking the council “to act quickly to cancel the above mentioned activities”.

The press office of the Chinese embassy in Rome did not respond to phone calls from AFP seeking a comment.

Badiucao, who lives in Australia, calls himself on social media a “Chinese-Aussie Artist hunted by CCP [Chinese Communist Party]”. He says the one in Brescia will be his first international solo exhibition.   

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CULTURE

Why Friday the 13th isn’t an unlucky date in Italy

Unlucky for some, but not for Italians. Here's why today's date isn't a cause for concern in Italy - but Friday the 17th is.

Why Friday the 13th isn't an unlucky date in Italy

When Friday the 13th rolls around, many of us from English-speaking countries might reconsider any risky plans. And it’s not exactly a popular date for weddings in much of the western world.

But if you’re in Italy, you don’t need to worry about it.

There’s no shortage of strongly-held superstitions in Italian culture, particularly in the south. But the idea of Friday the 13th being an inauspicious date is not among them.

Though the ‘unlucky 13’ concept is not unknown in Italy – likely thanks to the influence of American film and TV – here the number is in fact usually seen as good luck, if anything.

The number 17, however, is viewed with suspicion and Friday the 17th instead is seen as the unlucky date to beware of.

Just as some Western airlines avoid including the 13th row on planes, you might find number 17 omitted on Italian planes, street numbering, hotel floors, and so on – so even if you’re not the superstitious type, it’s handy to be aware of.

The reason for this is thought to be because in Roman numerals the number 17 (XVII) is an anagram of the Latin word VIXI, meaning ‘I have lived’: the use of the past tense apparently suggests death, and therefore bad luck. It’s less clear what’s so inauspicious about Friday.

So don’t be surprised if, next time Friday 17th rolls around, you notice some Italian shops and offices closed per scaramanzia’.

But why then does 13 often have a positive connotation in Italy instead?

You may not be too surprised to learn that it’s because of football.

Ever heard of Totocalcio? It’s a football pools betting system in which players long tried to predict the results of 13 different matches.

There were triumphant calls of ho fatto tredici! – ‘I’ve done thirteen’ – among those who got them all right. The popular expression soon became used in other contexts to mean ‘I hit the jackpot’ or ‘that was a stroke of luck!’

From 2004, the number of games included in Totocalcio rose to 14, but you may still hear winners shout ‘ho fatto tredici’ regardless.

Other common Italian superstitions include touching iron (not wood) for good luck, not toasting with water, and never pouring wine with your left hand.

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