Geneviève Makaping was born in Cameroon in 1958 and has lived in Italy since 1982. She fled from her homeland at the age of 16 for sentimental reasons and settled initially in France and then in Italy. Having obtained a degree in Modern Foreign Languages and Literatures, she subsequently completed a PhD in Multimedia Didactic Technologies and Communication Systems, both at the University of Calabria where she later taught. She has worked as a journalist at a local television station, Metrosat TV, and she was the first black director of an Italian newspaper, La Provincia Cosentina.
Her first book, Traiettori di sguardi. E se gli altri foste voi? (Rubbettino, 2001), is based on her own experiences as she travels up through Africa and eventually settles in Italy. A revised version of the book was published in 2022 (ed. by Simone Brioni, with an introduction by Caterina Romeo), and was translated into English in 2023 by Giovanna Bellesia Contuzzi and Victoria Offredi Poletto as Reversing the Gaze. What if the Other Were You. In this book, Makaping turns the tables on Italy’s white majority, scrutinizing them through the same unsparing gaze to which minorities have traditionally been subjected. As she candidly recounts her experiences – first across Africa and then as a migrant black woman in Italy – Makaping describes acts of racist aggression that are wearing and degrading to encounter on a daily basis. She also offers her perspective on how various forms of inequality – whether they be based on race, colour, gender, or class – feed off each other. Reversing the Gaze invites readers to confront the question of racism through the retelling of everyday occurrences that we all might have experienced as victims, perpetrators, or witnesses.
Makaping is currently an adjunct professor in French language and culture at the University of Mantua in Italy and has taught English at high school level since 2013.
The documentary Maka (2023, written by Simone Brioni and directed by Elia Moutamid) offers a detailed account of Makaping’s perilous journey of migration from Cameroon across the desert and the ocean, her arrival in Italy in 1982 following the tragic death of her partner, her success as a journalist and television host, and her more recent relocation and current teaching job in Mantua. The film focuses on questions of national belonging and reflects on how the perception of migration and race has changed since Makaping first came to Italy in the 1980s. The documentary was presented at several international film festivals including the Socially Relevant Film Festival in New York, the Festival del Cinema Africano d’Asia e d’America Latina, the Ottawa Black Film Festival, the Brno Film Festival, the Peloponnisos International Documentary Film Festival, the Swedish International Film Festival, the Munich New Wave Short Film Festival, the Lulea International Film Festival, the Boden International Film Festival, the Chennai International Documentary and Short Film Festival, and the International Black and Diversity Film Festival in Toronto.
Compiled by Simone Brioni (New York) with Victoria Offredi Poletto (Northampton, MA)
Traiettorie di sguardi. E se gli altri foste voi? (Soveria Mannelli: Rubbettino, 2001; revised ed. by Simone Brioni, 2022)
Reversing the Gaze. What if You were the Other? [Translation of Traiettorie di sguardi. E se gli altri foste voi? by Giovanna Bellesia Contuzzi and Victoria Offredi Poletto, ed. by Simone Brioni] (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2023)
Benchouiha, Lucie: ‘Hybrid Identities? Immigrant Women’s Writing in Italy’ (Italian Studies, 61.2, 2006, pp. 251-262)
Brioni, Simone: ‘On the Making of Maka: Collaborative Practices, Autotheory, and Diversity’ (The Italianist, 42.2, 2022, pp. 197-210)
Johnson, Rachel: ‘Producing Maka: Hybridisation and Dialogue in Academic Filmmaking’ (The Italianist, 42.2, 2022, pp. 211-219)
Romeo, Caterina: ‘The Intersectional Counter-Gaze of Geneviève Makaping in Traiettorie di sguardi’ (The Italianist, 42.2, 2022, pp. 189-196)
—: Interrupted Narratives and Intersectional Representations in Italian Postcolonial Literature (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2023)
Sabelli, Sonia: ‘Transnational Identities and the Subversion of the Italian Language in Geneviève Makaping, Christiana de Caldas Brito, and Jarmila Očkayova’ (Dialectical Anthropology, 29.3-4, 2005, pp. 439-451)
—: ‘Quando la subalterna parla: le Traiettorie di sguardi di Geneviève Makaping’ in Fuori centro. Percorsi postcoloniali nella letteratura italiano ed. by Roberto Derobertis (Rome: Aracne, 2010, pp. 131-148)