During his performance, Emanuele asks his audience “Why are we here, all together?”. Emanuele is a young actor from Rome who lives in Milan, and one of the many creative people – a word that has become almost odious but which is justified in this context – gathered in Belmonte Calabro at the end of December 2019. Together with all of these artists, I am in the Casa di Belmondo, visiting the cultural association La Rivoluzione delle Seppie on the occasion of the “Unbreaded” workshop – a play on words between ‛bread’ and ‘unbranded’ – on the theme of bread and conviviality, carried out with the contribution of residents and non-residents through theatrical performances, a meeting on the theme of raw earth and a baking workshop.
When I arrived there, two days earlier, I sat down with Luke, Matteo and Cristiano, at the Sport Bar downtown - an English architect living in London, an Italian-English graphic designer living in Holland an Italian programmer, living in the Czech Republic. Three very different people, who all share the fact of being millennials - after all, like me and most of the “passersby” here. I realize it when I see them coming to the bar. At first, we are a small group of four people, then 10, and then, without even realizing it, there are more than 40 of us, in a town that officially has a thousand inhabitants. The foreigners who arrive greet the locals with a friendly tone that comes from a shared experience, which is still mysterious to me.
At the bar, the question that keeps running through my head is the same one that the other people ask me: “And you, why are you here?”. Everytime I try to come up with an answer, it seems incomplete. Francesca asks the same question to Manuela, Walter to Eleonora, Stefano to Emanuele, Giuseppe to Carlotta, Vincenzo to Luca, Margherita to Federico. Rather than being the reason for the trip to Belmonte, the workshop is the perfect pretext for staying in Belmonte: those who are familiar with the cultural projects of Le Seppie engage the newbies who arrived in Belmonte for the first time, while the newcomers try to satisfy their curiosity about what La Rivoluzione delle Seppie is – and what it does exactly.
La Rivoluzione delle Seppie is a no-profit cultural association based in Belmonte Calabro that was founded in 2016 by Rita Elvira Adamo, Matteo Blandford, Eleonora Ienaro and Florian Siegel. Its aim is to experiment a new “learning-by-doing” pedagogy. The rhythm of their initiatives on the territory is intensifying because they are trying to put down roots, to leave a mark, to have a house. In fact, thanks to the patronage of the Municipality of Belmonte Calabro, they managed to renovate the former nunnery, and turn it into what they call today Casa di Belmondo. This was the setting of the series of workshops “Crossings”, which were organized in collaboration with Orizzontale (read more about it here), Ex Convento and The Cass (School of Art, Architecture and Design at London Metropolitan University).
All the “nerve endings” of the network that Le Seppie created over time are linked by the events they organize: they bring new activities to Belmonte on a regular basis. This cultural project is rooted in a difficult territory, in a region that seems often forgotten even by Italians, and where major problems of land abandonment and depopulation still persist. The regional elections at the end of January 2020 were the litmus test of the situation in Calabria: while Italy was focusing on the results in Emilia-Romagna, the elections in Calabria passed unnoticed.
Guido Piovene once wrote: “Calabria seems to have been created by a capricious God who, after creating different worlds, had fun mixing them together” (Viaggio in Italia, 1957). I understood the meaning of my journey only when I came back home and I started to realize that I had found some of the fragments of those worlds among the inhabitants of this new hybrid community that is slowly taking shape.
The reasons for choosing this particular territory are only partly justified by the personal bond that Rita, the only one of the founders who was born and raised here, has with the region of Calabria. Here, Le Seppie have found the space to create their world, which they call Belmondo. It is an open and inclusive imagination, constantly and collectively redefined. And anyone can potentially become a local: Le Seppie believe in Belmondo so strongly that they give everyone the possibility to create their own virtual Belmondo identity card through their website.
The project started on the basis of a daring bet: not that of a utopian repopulation, but of the development of a system of different and specific actions for the territory. Le Seppie, thanks to their determination and persistence, lead their network – made of residents, patrons and founders – to identify common goals, create bridges between people and give new meaning to physical places. It is here that Belmondo and Belmonte meet: an imagery that manages to redefine the real place.
Their presence in Belmondo isn’t daily, but constant: it is a long-standing issue for them and, for those who have never been to Belmonte, a source of doubt about the effectiveness of the action of Le Seppie. However, this is the condition that allows them to bring back to Belmonte all the experiences necessary to realize Belmondo, in a logic of mutual exchange, almost of “barter of experiences”. They do it with the strength of those who are part of a generation that has travelled, lived different worlds, grown up in a moment of crisis but that must find new opportunities for themselves in the relationship with other people. I finally understand the effectiveness of their action when one of the inhabitants of the town tells me that “at the first, Belmonte reacted to Belmondo with a certain distrust, which however did not last long: now the whole town is waiting for Le Seppie to get here”.
Opening image: the realization of the festoons, with avatars representing the identities of the inhabitants of Belmondo, at the venue of Ex Convento. Photo Cristiano Insola
- Organized by:
- La Rivoluzione delle Seppie – Rita Elvira Adamo, Matteo Blandford, Eleonora Ienaro
- Communication Manager:
- Francesca Bova
- Theatre performances:
- Emanuele Marchetti, Walter Rizzuto
- Meeting on the theme of raw earth:
- Studio Pasta Madre
- Bakery workshop:
- Samuele Garritano, Panificio and Salumeria del Cannone - Longobardi (CS)
- In collaboration with:
- Ex Convento, Orizzontale
- Casa di Belmondo and Convento dei Cappuccini, Belmonte Calabro
- 28 December - 2 January 2019