Why on earth would anyone dare to intertwine the ominous word mafia with the vibrant and artistic realm of dance?
It’s a question that might elicit both intrigue and bewilderment.
In a world where words hold immense power and associations shape perceptions, the fusion of such seemingly incongruous elements naturally makes you prick up your ears, prompting you to investigate the peculiar choice of nomenclature.
Wonder no more! I will I take you through the story of a dance community daringly named
“The Urban Kiz Mafia”, and you might spot the motive behind that quaint decision.
The term mafia and its associated elements comprise a curious blend of fabricated and authentic origins, a mix of legendary and ordinary figures, a fusion of fictional and factual aspects that border on the realm of surrealism, which goes beyond the scope of this post
AND… (dramatic pause)
which is why I am not going to write a full-blown paper on the topic right now (ha! Let’s see how that goes).
I will jump right into the Kiz Mafia’s birth story and then sprinkle just a small pinch of research into this blog entry.
“We’re this crew, dominating the dance floor with our moves. We’re so good it’s almost criminal”
why one might be surprised about my choice. Historically the word mafia refers to criminal organizations involved in violence and illegal activities.
Rest assured; the only organised crime “The Urban Kiz Mafia” is guilty of is killing it on the dance floor.
But let’s have a quick look at the word origin. (Here I am geeking out just a tiiiny bit, something that happens to me with all topics of interest. At the same time I’ll keep it fragmental (!) )
The word mafia exists in the Florentine dialect, carrying the connotation of poverty and misery. There is a similar Piedmontese word, mafiun, meaning: ‘a little or petty person’ (Novacco, 1859).
However, the meaning of the term, as employed in Sicily, differs significantly. According to a 1658 documentation, the word is utilised as a nickname following the name of a witch — Catarina la Licatisa, also called Maffia — and in this context, it conveys the notions of boldness, ambition, and arrogance.Especially in Borgo, a suburb, mafia meant “bellezza, baldanza, orgoglio, graziosità, perfezione, eccellenza” (Hess, 1998, p. 1), that is; ‘beauty, boldness, pride, grace, perfection, excellence’.
Scholar Diego Gambetta (1993) also explains that the term mafia originates from the Sicilian word mafiusu, which can be roughly translated as “swagger” but that it carries connotations of “boldness” or “bravado” as well.
In like manner, in 19th century Sicily, the term mafiusu (mafioso in Italian) referred to a man who was considered “fearless”, “enterprising” and “proud”. On the other hand, when describing a woman, the feminine form of the adjective, mafiusa, signifies “beautiful” or “attractive”.
Although the exact origins of the word remain ambiguous, it is speculated that the term might have entered the Sicilian language through Arabic influence due to Sicily’s historical association as an Islamic emirate for over 200 years.
Potential Arabic origins of the term include:
ma’afi (معفي) = exempted. In Islamic law, Jizya, is the yearly tax imposed on non-Muslims residing in Muslim lands. And people who pay it are “exempted” from prosecution (Hannabuss, 2010).
mahyas (مهياص) = aggressive boasting, bragging (Hess, 1998)
(Theroux, 1995). Following the Norman conquest that eradicated Saracen rule in Sicily during the 11th century, the region transitioned to a feudalistic system. Many Arab smallholders were transformed into serfs on newly established estates, while a few sought refuge in what later became known as “the Mafia,” a clandestine sanctuary (Lewis, 1964).
American journalist and author Selwyn Raab points out that prior to the 19th century, the term “mafioso” did not denote a criminal individual but rather someone who exhibited skepticism or distrust towards centralized authority. It was only in the 1860s that the term “Mafia” gained criminal connotations through the play “I Mafiusi della Vicaria” (“Heroes of the Penitentiary”). This play portrayed a group of prisoners in a Sicilian jail who upheld their own system of leadership and traditions, and it played a significant role in spreading the term “Mafia” within the Italian language (Raab, 2016).
On a very interesting sidenote:The Sicilian Mafia and the associated Italian-American Mafia have their own designations and call their organizations “Cosa Nostra” (Our Thing / Our Affair).It is the press and the general public that informally use the term mafia (Raab, 2016).
The only organized crime we’re guilty of is
killing it on the dance floor!
Hearing the word “Mafia” directly triggers our brains to replay movie scenes in our heads, we think of well-dressed men in fedora hats and lots of gesticulative communication.
However, navigating the topic often leads us through blurred boundaries between fiction and reality due to several compelling reasons:
1. Media Influence
2. Historical Roots
3. Secretive Nature
4. Personal Accounts
5. Cultural Impact
6. Legal Proceedings
7. Misinformation and Stereotypes
9. Evolving Narratives
(find further elaboration on these points at the end of the post: ***)
In essence, the topic of the mafia is one where reality and fiction intertwine, often making it challenging to separate the two. This complexity provides an intriguing lens through which to explore the human fascination with crime, power dynamics, and the thin line between truth and myth.
The exact word origin is not entirely evident, but beyond its stigmatised meaning, there appear to have been some pretty positive former connotations to our term in question.
Many things in life are subject to evolution as well as interpretation and can be seen from various perspectives.
Here is the thing: one can always argue about the appropriateness of a certain (brand) name. As a matter of fact I’m not typing these lines to convince you, I am merely providing a different perspective and a glimpse into my thoughts.
In the realm of informal language, we often witness the normalization of words with negative connotations as a means of playful or provocative expression. Embracing these terms is, in essence, a linguistic phenomenon wherein individuals adopt and repurpose certain words to convey a different context altogether. This linguistic evolution can serve as a form of rebellion against societal norms and a means of challenging conventional perceptions.
By using words like “cool”, “geek”, “badass”, “dope”, “wicked” etc. in a lighthearted context, people aim to add an air of camaraderie, admiration, or even playfulness and humor to their chosen names, titles, or group designations.
This linguistic playfulness doesn’t necessarily undermine the gravity of the original term, but rather, it showcases language’s dynamic nature and the power of words to undergo transformation based on the context in which they are used.
Of course we all have a faint idea of the actual history of professional crime.
Is “The Urban Kiz Mafia” meaning to produce arrogant and aggressive boasters approving of illegal activities? Absolutely not!“The Urban Kiz Mafia” takes all the good that’s mentioned above and tells the world in a humorous way that we slay doing and sharing what we love😎.
It symbolises the collective determination to make our mark in the couple dance universe, supporting each other and fearlessly expressing ourselves through Urban Kiz.Maybe one day it’ll become a rallying cry, who knows?! ( 😛 ).
It surely is a testament to our shared enthusiasm, and a reminder of the extraordinary bond you form through dance. And most importantly our essence, which is to convey a message of celebrating the values of (com)passion, unity & dedication that are at the heart of our art, encapsulated in kindness and respect while never taking ourselves too seriously.
1. Media Influence:
The portrayal of the mafia in various forms of media, such as movies, television shows, books, and video games, has created a fictionalized image of organized crime that can often be sensationalized or glamorized. These depictions often blend elements of reality with dramatic storytelling, making it difficult to separate fact from fiction.
2. Historical Roots:
The mafia has a long history that spans across different countries and time periods. This historical foundation, combined with the secrecy surrounding the organization, has led to numerous legends, myths, and conspiracy theories. Sorting out what is historically accurate from what might be embellished becomes a challenge.
3. Secretive Nature:The mafia operates in secrecy, making it difficult to obtain concrete evidence or accurate information about its inner workings. As a result, much of what is known about the mafia is based on second-hand accounts, rumors, and law enforcement efforts to dismantle these criminal networks.
4. Personal Accounts:
Some individuals who have been involved in or associated with the mafia have shared their experiences, adding to the complexity of the topic. These personal accounts often blend real events with personal perspectives, making it challenging to discern where reality ends and personal interpretation begins.
5. Cultural Impact:
The mafia has become an integral part of cultural identity in certain regions. This has led to a mixture of historical facts, cultural narratives, and romanticized notions of loyalty, honor, and power that further contribute to the blurred boundary between fact and fiction.
6. Legal Proceedings:
High-profile trials and investigations involving mafia members have shed light on their activities, but legal proceedings can also be manipulated or distorted for various reasons. These events can contribute to the confusion between the actual activities of the mafia and how they are presented in the public sphere.
7. Misinformation and Stereotypes:
Stereotypes and misinformation surrounding the mafia have propagated over time, leading to misunderstandings about their true nature. These misconceptions can further blur the line between reality and fiction.
8. Artistic Liberties: Writers, filmmakers, and other artists often take creative liberties when depicting the mafia, which can lead to exaggerations or distortions for the sake of storytelling. This artistic interpretation can further complicate our understanding of what is real and what is fictional.
9. Evolving Narratives:Over time, the narratives surrounding the mafia have evolved due to changing social, political, and cultural contexts. This evolution can cause shifts in perceptions and beliefs about the mafia, making it difficult to pinpoint a definitive representation.
Diego, G. (1993). The Sicilian mafia: The business of private protection.
Hannabuss, S. (2010). The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World. Reference Reviews, 24(3), 11-13.Hess, H. (1998). Mafia & Mafiosi: Origin, Power and Myth, London: C. Hurst & Co. Publishers Ltd.
Lewis, N. (1964). The honoured society. (No Title).
Novacco, D. (1959). Considerazioni sulla fortuna del termine «mafia». Belfagor, 14(2), 206-212.
Pitrè, G. (1889). Biblioteca delle tradizioni popolari siciliane (Vol. 17). L. Pedone-Lauriel.
Raab, S. (2016). Five Families: The Rise, Decline, and Resurgence of America’s Most Powerful Mafia Empires. Macmillan.
Theroux, Paul (1995). The Pillars of Hercules: A Grand Tour of the Mediterranean.
Zaimeche, S. (2004). Sicily. Foundation for Science, Knowledge, and Civilisation, 1-20.
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