The origins of
a famous mask
of Sicilian Carnival
This clumsy and unkempt character, who was born with the Commedia dell’Arte, loves eating and sleeping and symbolizes the Sicilian soul. His popularity has now risen again, making him an unmissable presence during Carnival parades
Good-humoured people of Sicily, young and old, are often jokingly associated to a Peppe ‘Nnappa, a character who has become the personification of light-heartedness and joviality.
Those living in Sciacca (Agrigento) know him as a giant carnival mask, parading every year with his wagon through the streets with music and confetti. Even in other areas, however, this Sicilian character has always been famous, with his hat, white shoes and a typical blue shirt with large buttons and sleeves.
But where did this character come from and how come he is still so appreciated? Young Peppe (or Beppe) is traditionally considered a servant from Commedia dell’Arte with worn clothes (no coincidence that “nnappa” means “patch” in local dialect), who spoke Sicilian and was always a bit crooked.
He often got in trouble, only to be caught by his master and having to pay the price, and his main passions were eating and sleeping. Greedy and lazy, the mask was therefore a tender and exaggerated representation of Sicilian people, with his cheerfulness and a pinch of indolence, as well as his ability to cope alone and enjoy the simplest pleasures of life.
This witty “scrap” of a man may have been inspired by Pierrot and has long remained alive in memory thanks to oral generational tales, until Alfredo Danese from Catania officially inserted him in some theatrical scripts in 1978. Since then, Peppe ‘Nnappa has undergone a new phase of popularity even in dialectal expressions.
Those among you interested in meeting him in person should not miss the next Carnival in Sciacca!
Translated by Eva Luna Mascolino