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.
Pippa Bacca on her “Brides on Tour” project for peace, during which she was killed while hitchhiking in Turkey. Credit FotoUp
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.
“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.
Ms. Pasqualino expressed gratitude to the Turkish authorities for solving the crime. “It only took them a few days,” she said. “We could have been left wondering all our lives what had happened to my sister.”
The police said they had tracked down Mr. Karatas after he used a cellphone that he had taken from Ms. Bacca.
Ms. Moro said she and Ms. Bacca had dreamed up the performance piece at a party last spring. Wearing different wedding dresses designed by Manuel Facchini of the fashion company Byblos, the two artists were to travel — at times together, at times separately — through northeastern Italy, Serbia, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Lebanon, the Palestinian territories and Syria, before arriving in Israel. Along the way they would stop at galleries, foundations or cultural centers to meet with local artists, craftsmen and midwives.
Ms. Moro’s performance included asking women at various stops to embroider patterns on her wedding dress. Ms. Bacca would meet with the midwives and wash their feet. “It was to honor their profession, which is to bring life into being,” Ms. Moro said.
En route they would document their experiences by taking photographs, keeping diaries and recording video.
A video on YouTube shows the “brides” getting ready for their trip at a party at the Casa Morigi, a cultural space in Milan. The two women dress to the accompaniment of an accordion player, then descend to the street, laughing excitedly, to bid their goodbyes to friends and well-wishers. Rice is thrown, and the two take off on motorcycles, the only segment of the trip with planned transportation.
“In every country, including Turkey, we hitched rides with amazing people, from students to farmers to businessmen,” Ms. Moro said. “Some offered us lunch. Others didn’t even ask why we were dressed like that; they didn’t even care.”
The two artists planned to wrap up their journey sometime in May with a performance in a public space in Tel Aviv, where they would ceremonially wash the two wedding dresses, as they periodically did on the trip. “We were going to wash away the traces of war, to cancel them,” Ms. Moro said.
The final act of “Brides on Tour” was to have been an exhibition this November at the Byblos art gallery in Verona, Italy, where the wedding dresses would be displayed with mementos and photographs from the trip.
Ms. Moro said she still hoped to take to the road to finish the performance. “Otherwise it would be a failure, and I don’t want the message to fail,” she said.
“I am not disowning the project,” she added firmly. “This tragedy only highlights how difficult peaceful relations are and how much work there is still to do.”
Pippa Bacca in Istanbul a few days before she was killed. Ms. Bacca and Silvia Moro were stressing the need for global harmony. Credit: Sirio Magnabosco