Italian Artist Pippa Bacca Murdered on Peace Tour

April 21, 2008 · Print This Article

From the New York Times:

MILAN — The two friends, both performance artists, hatched the idea about a year ago: wearing white wedding dresses, they would hitchhike from Italy to the Balkans to the Middle East to send a message of peace and “marriage between different peoples and nations.”

But the message delivered by their performance piece was mostly sad and raw. After just three weeks on the road, one of the two Italian artists, Pippa Bacca, 33, was killed by a driver who offered her a ride.

Her naked body was found on April 11 in some bushes near a Turkish village after a suspect led investigators to the site. Although an official cause of death has not been given, local Turkish authorities said Ms. Bacca had been raped and strangled.

The killing has stirred broad public anger and grief in Turkey and Italy. Still, what Ms. Bacca would have wanted, her family and friends said, was her message of peace to live on.

“She thought that in the world there were more positive than negative people, and that it was right to be trusting,” said Rosalia Pasqualino, a sister of Ms. Bacca, whose real name was Giuseppina Pasqualino di Marineo. “Trust is a very human factor, and she believed that to understand people, you had to get to know them.”

On Saturday the artist’s friends, relatives and supporters will honor her memory and her quixotic quest in a short procession from the Pasqualino family home here to a Roman Catholic church nearby.

A choir that Ms. Bacca founded will perform at the funeral Mass (they don’t sing very well, her sister said fondly, but they are always quite entertaining), and everyone has been asked to wear or to carry something green, the artist’s favorite color.

“The family wanted to remember her in a joyous manner,” said Silvia Moro, 37, the artist who set out with Ms. Bacca on the trip, billed as “Brides on Tour,” on March 8. She said she last saw her friend on March 19 in Istanbul, where the two split up and agreed to rejoin each other in Beirut.

The performance piece, a trip through nearly a dozen countries in the Balkans and the Middle East, many of them ravaged by war recently, was meant to underscore that “by overcoming differences and lowering the level of conflict,” individuals and cultures could come together, Ms. Moro said in a telephone interview. “Meeting people was the key.”

Ms. Bacca’s trip was cut short near the village of Gebze, about 40 miles southeast of Istanbul. An unemployed man, Murat Karatas, 38, has confessed to killing her shortly after picking her up on March 31, the authorities have said.

Accepting rides with strangers was crucial to the art performance’s success, Ms. Moro said. The artists’ statement at their Web site, bridesontour.fotoup.net, says, “Hitchhiking is choosing to have faith in other human beings, and man, like a small god, rewards those who have faith in him.”

Ms. Moro explained: “It’s a poor way of traveling, and we wanted to underscore that you can’t foster love between people if you’re holed up in business class. You can’t go to, say, Mauritius, and eat pasta. You won’t understand people until you break bread with them, because it’s in the small diversities that you find similarities.”

After reports of Ms. Bacca’s death circulated, Ms. Bacca’s family and Italian and Turkish government officials immediately emphasized that the killing had been a cruel act by a possibly deranged person and could have happened almost anywhere.

“Just read any newspaper — people get killed for playing music too loudly, and women get raped in the subway; there are fiends everywhere,” Ms. Pasqualino said. “This was not a question of Turkey or of religion.”

Stefano Canzio, the Italian consul in Istanbul, said by telephone that “the reaction was very strong” in Turkey, and not just in the news media. Turkish citizens have sent scores of condolence messages to the Italian consulate in Istanbul and to the artist’s family, he said, adding, “People were incensed that a Turkish man could carry out such a heinous crime on a young woman who was on a trip for peace.”

Turkey’s president, Abdullah Gul, called President Giorgio Napolitano of Italy to relay the “heartfelt grief of the Turkish population for the tragedy,” according to Mr. Napolitano’s office.

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