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Gharraf an Artisan Reality Between Life, Death, and Rebirth.

“I Siciliani” is a blog that celebrates everyday people who make courageous life decisions and transform the island into a unique place. I want to tell you the stories of women and men I admire and respect who inspire me daily. Today’s Inspiration is Margherita; her friends call her Tita; I adore her voice, and I wear the jewels she designs, a fusion of tradition and modernity with a provocative, sensual twist.

The first time I saw Margherita was ten years ago; she came for an interview on my radio show; it was love at first sight. She is 34, gorgeous, volcanic, and very independent; if that wasn’t enough, she is a talented goldsmith with an angelic voice. There is an adjective you will often read when I’m talking about Sicilian women: volcanic. I could use a synonym, but trust me, that would be reductive!

Then we met accidentally a couple of years ago; she was sitting with her daughter Frida outside her workshop in the heart of the historical market of the Vucciria[1] in Palermo. She told me everything about her new challenge; Tita fell in love with the ancient art of the goldsmith and started practicing it as an autodidact, as a hobby.

Months before our encounter, she saw a rental sign while walking nearby Piazzetta Garaffo2. Margherita has been traveling the world since she was young, so the crowded and multicultural district of the “Vucciria” was the perfect location for her workshop. Suddenly, everything appeared clear to her; she decided to follow her dream and try this new adventure; she rented the place and installed her first goldsmith workshop there. To honor the Piazza that inspired her beginning, she called it Gharraf, which means in Arabic “abundance of water.”

I wanted to share Tita’s story and craft with you because, despite her university degree, she decided that goldsmith and craftsmanship were her new focus. Margherita dared to make a living out of her passion; she belongs to a generation of young people who, instead of emigrating, stay put and rediscover the beauty of secular Sicilian traditional crafts.

Interview following!

S.A.: How do you describe Gharraf?
M.R.: “Gharraf” is a wish fulfilled, an artisan reality that has its roots in my experiences, between life, death, and rebirth, a path through which I give free rein to my manual creativity.

S.A.: Which is your distinctive feature?
M.R.: The essential key to my work is the desire to transmit something through craftsmanship. Therefore, going beyond aesthetics is fundamental for me to give voice to my thoughts; this way, each creation is a unique piece of art, both for its intimate creative process and its craftsmanship that always makes everything unrepeatable.

S. A.: What drives you as an entrepreneur?
M.R.: Indeed, the need to constantly be evolving, the discovery, the inspiration, this constant inner search allows me to create but to do something that simultaneously inspires others since most of my works want to be a reminder to wear. To give you an idea of what I mean by that, those are some of the names I gave to my creatures: “Love Yourself,” “Shine,” “Flourish,” “What you Sow you Reap,” “Embrace,” “Femme Fatale,” Holy Vagina .”They are more than artifacts; they want to be a social protest and the statement that the energy to face life lies within us; if I did not do all this, my work would not make sense.

S.A.: You are a free spirit; if you were to define yourself in one of your numerous passions, what would it be?
M.R.: The concept of freedom is a struggle that I had to make with myself. Society demands women to be perfect, the perfect spouse, the perfect mother. In welcoming imperfection in my life, I made peace with my being a mother and woman at the same time, receiving good days and bad days with the same enthusiasm, and it is an attitude that I wish all women had. Accordingly, I live every passion 100%. Still, music is the reality in which my most intimate “me” makes my heart vibrate, the one that really makes my more profound vulnerabilities visible and audible and in which I have always been myself.

S.A.: Name a song that tastes like Sicily.
M.R.: -“I Pirati a Palermu” (The Pirates of Palermo) was written in the ’70s by the Sicilian poet Ignazio Buttitta and interpreted by Rosa Balistreri, a singer whose voice represents the soul of Sicily. She sings about a land robbed of its lifeblood. However, not everyone knows that the song talks about Italian Unification, the historical episode that signed the island’s decadence. From that moment on, rich and luxuriant, Sicily lost its protagonism in making Italian history and started to be exploited and robbed by the rest of the Peninsula.

S.A.: Where do you see yourself in ten years?
M.R.: I see myself in my city, Palermo, surrounded by beauty. I hope that gentrification and the explosion of activities born for tourism do not take away the little space left to artisans and small historical realities that today find themselves fighting against low-quality activities at low cost.

How will I be? Who knows? I’m constantly evolving, and Gharraf is preparing for new significant changes right now, as it always did since it existed and always will.

[1] Vucciria
The Vucciria is a daily historical market in the district “La Loggia” or “Mandamento Castello a Mare.” Located between Piazza Caracciolo and Piazza Garaffello; once was one of the most colorful sights in the city, now more popular in the evenings as a gathering place for young Palermitans.  

Blue Guide, Sicily, 9th Edition by Ellen Grady

[2] Piazzetta Garaffello
The location of the Garraffo fountain was in a small piazzetta in the market of the Vucciria market, in front of the monument called Genio del Garraffo, and near the church of Sant’Eulalia dei Catalani until 1862, when it was moved to this airy and verdant Piazza Marina.

A different fountain of the Garaffo, now referred to as the Fontana del Garraffello, was erected in 1589 (or 1591) in piazzetta del Garaffo, it had been moved from its original sited due to the seepage into a neighboring house.