The death of a child is a human tragedy that defies explanation. It’s an explosion in the heart, and causes unimaginable pain. Marlene Dumas’ Mamma Roma deals with this. To represent this feeling, she chose a scream that some might recognise. It’s the voice of Anna Magnani, alias Mamma Roma, the lead character Pier Paolo Pasolini’s 1962 film, who has lost hope and is in despair at the death of little Ettore, her son. As an artist, Dumas doesn’t use words to tell the story: she does it with paintbrushes on the canvas. Magnani’s desperate cry thus becomes a universal scream of defeat and the symbol of the terrible suffering of a mother who lives the greatest pain: the pain of the very person she brought into the world.