Events explore legacy of Italian colonialism

October 29, 2021
Image from documentary If Only I Were That Warrior
Poster for If Only I Were That Warrior screening and discussion

This month, the Center for Italian Culture at Fitchburg State University begins a series of events that will look at the legacy of Italian colonialism, centered on the invasion of Ethiopia in the 1930s and its resonance across generations and continents.

In October 1935, Italian Army soldiers invaded Ethiopia. The war was fought until February 1937, and is remembered in Ethiopia as the Italian Invasion, and in Italy as the Ethiopian War. The Center for Italian Culture invites the community to explore the complex legacy of this time period with a series of programs that will explore history and culture from a variety of perspectives.

At the heart of this exploration will be the acclaimed novel The Shadow King by Ethiopian-American author Maaza Mengiste. Faculty members will lead discussion groups centered on the novel, culminating in February with a keynote address by Mengiste herself in February. Other presentations will look at the history of Fascism in Italy and its repercussions across generations and continents.

The programs begin with a film screening and discussion of If Only I Were That Warrior at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 9 in Ellis White Lecture Hall. The documentary looks at the recent construction of a monument dedicated to Fascist general Rodolfo Graziani, and addresses the unpunished war crimes he and others committed in the name of Mussolini’s imperial ambitions. The stories of three characters, filmed in present day Ethiopia, Italy and the United States, take the audience on a journey through the living memories and the tangible remains of the Italian occupation of Ethiopia — a journey that crosses generations and continents to today, where this often overlooked legacy still ties the fates of two nations and their people.

Following the screening, at 5 p.m., there will be a virtual question and answer session with director/producer Valerio Ciriaci and cinematographer/producer Isaak Liptzin, who will discuss the making of the film and the questions it raises about the malleable nature of history.

Associate Professor Kevin McCarthy from the university’s Communications Media Department will introduce the screening and moderate the question and answer session with the filmmakers.

The exploration will continue in 2022, culminating in a keynote address at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 15, when author Maaza Mengiste will come to campus to discuss her celebrated novel The Shadow King, which explores the Italian occupation and its aftermath.

Learn more about the series at