BeanScene Magazine

Calabrian photo exhibition

From the May 2012 issue.
Calabrian photo exhibition

A contemporary photographic exhibition called Continuum aims to demonstrate the simplicity of life in several Calabrian villages.

Hailing from the small Calabrian village of Soveria Mannelli in Catanzaro in central Calabria, Matteo Rubbettino moved from Milan to Melbourne two years ago to complete his Master of Arts and Management.

The idea to organise a modern photographic exhibition showcasing Calabrian village life came to light last year after Matteo began researching his home village and looking for surrounding villages similar to his own. He was astonished to discover the number of people that migrated from Soveria Mannelli to Australia during the peak of Italian migration.

“There are now 3000 people in Soveria Mannelli, but approximately 1000 people from that village migrated to Melbourne during the 1960s,” he explains. “I found that this trend was replicated in other villages too. Migration to certain countries was largely based on word of mouth. For example, if a particular person came to Australia, word spread within the village and many others would follow suit. In other villages, there was a large proportion of people that moved to Canada or the United States.”

After investigating several Calabrian villages, Matteo discovered seven with a high level of migration to Melbourne. “I went back to Calabria and looked for photographers with a good understanding of what I was hoping to achieve through my exhibition. I needed photographers who could just go around the villages one day and take photos, showing the simplicity of everyday life,” says Matteo.

The photos being shown at the photographic exhibition are of the Calabrian villages Soveria Mannelli, Decollatura, Conflenti, Lamezia Terme, Platania, Motta Santa Lucia and Tiriolo.

Photos of Soveria and Decollatura were taken by Maria Antonietta Bevilacqua, those of Lamezia Terme were taken by Turi Scillia, Associazione Fotografica l’Obiettivo was responsible for the photos taken in Tiriolo, Elio Cozza took photos in Conflenti, photos of Platania are by Luigi Bonadio, and Pierangelo Belfiore took photos of Motta Santa Lucia. Other contributing photographers included Federico Rocca, Rosario Chiodo, Francesco Bonacci and Daniele Maiolo.

The photographs were all taken during 2011 and 2012 in order to paint a picture of what the villages look like today. They are accompanied by a special selection of historical images of Calabrian villages, courtesy of the Italian Historical Society Archive. These historical photographs were all taken by Italian migrants. “For me, I think it is important to showcase what the Historical Society is doing in helping to preserve the past. It is also relevant to connect the old traditions with the new,” says Matteo.

Matteo says he chose to use photographs for the Continuum exhibition because they are such powerful tools, especially for those that have experienced the transition between Italy and Australia. “Photos can help the viewer stay connected with a particular place,” he says.

Although Matteo has organised several exhibitions in the past, he says that this one is very different. “Continuum is an exhibition that is very close to my heart and it wouldn’t have been possible without the help of Carlo Carli and Rosaria Zarro at Museo Italiano. It’s really moving to see how much love Australians have for these Italian villages. We take that for granted sometimes back home. I’m hoping to repeat the same exhibition format with other regions in Italy.”

Included in the exhibition are photographs of public squares, fountains, traditional meeting points, landscapes and churches. Many photographs also depict smaller details. For example, there are images of mailboxes as these enabled people to keep in contact with friends and family that migrated to Australia. A famous stone in Decollatura also features in the exhibition. This stone was used as a meeting point in the village.

“I wanted to give people the opportunity to experience a day in a Calabrian village through photos. In Australia, Italy’s past is the present and the future. Many people who migrated to Australia all those years ago haven’t returned and still remember Italy as it was back then. There is a need for Italians here to hold onto the past and stay connected to it. Time passes but things still stay the same. The Continuum exhibition is about reconnecting people with their heritage and traditions.”

After collecting the photographs, Matteo began working on a series of other events that highlight a sense of belonging. “People still feel a connection with the village their family originally came from, even if they were born here in Australia,” says Matteo.

As part of the exhibition, Museo Italiano is showing the work of Italian filmmaker Antonio Grande, who filmed the streets of 24 Calabrian villages. In addition, a selection of books about traditions and cuisine in Calabrian villages will be available for viewing during the exhibition. These books will also be available for purchase.

On 17 April, Museo Italiano hosted a film evening as part of the Continuum exhibition and a documentary called ‘In Calabria’ was shown. The documentary is by Vittorio De Seta whose work depicts the everyday life of Calabrian and Sicilian workers.

A Calabrian poems evening will also be held on 29 May at Museo Italiano. A selection of poems by Calabrian authors Pane, Costabile, Repaci, Butera and Strano will be presented in Calabrian dialect with interpretations.

Other events held as part of the exhibition included a bocce night with bocce champion Santo Pascuzzi, a cooking workshop and a show by the School of Tarantella.

The Continuum photographic exhibition will be on display at Museo Italiano, 199 Faraday Street, Carlton, until 16 June.

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