On Sunday 6 June at Tūranga, the Dante Society and the Italian and Italophile community of Christchurch celebrated the Festa della Repubblica, Italy’s national day, in style.
The celebrations were overseen by wonderful MC Alessandro Palermo, and introduced by the Honorary Consul Belfiore Bologna. He spoke of how special it was to mark and celebrate this important day on the Italian calendar, while also acknowledging the difficult time Italy has been through with the devastating presence of Covid-19. “While we remember, we also move forward”.
Alessandro went on to introduce and interview members of the Italian community, with two-three people at a time representing various periods of Italian migration to New Zealand: the 1940s and 50s, the 1980s, the 1990s, and the post-quake influx. There were no representatives from the 1960s and 70s, because, as Maria (the vice-president of the Dante Society) explained, these were the years of Italy’s economic boom, and very few Italians migrated overseas at that time.
In answer to the question of what these Italian migrants missed about their homeland, common answers were the food (the difficulty in getting olive oil in the old days is notorious!), the weather, and Italian people. What Italian tradition do these migrants try to continue? Italian cooking (a must!) and keeping the language alive, with one interviewee describing it as being “the most important gift you can give to your child - bilingualism”.
Between each interview, a popular Italian song of the relevant period was played by the very talented Mimmo Mayone and Phil Patey. Their selection included:
· Malafemmena by Totò (1951)
· Stand by me by Ben E. King, which was “Italianised” as Pregherò by Adriano Celentano (1962)
· Certe notti by Luciano Ligabue (1995)
· Più che puoi by Eros Ramazzotti and Cher (2001)
To finish off, there was a rousing rendition of L’anno che verrà by Lucio Dalla (1979), which saw many in the audience join in enthusiastically.
A special shout out was made to Giorgio, a well-known member of the Italian community and frequent library user - who was celebrating his 85th birthday on the same day! (Some of you may remember reading about Giorgio’s story in our blog post The Love of Book Clubs last year).
After a delicious lunch kindly provided by the Dante Society, we were back into the celebrations with a captivating mini classical concert performed by singer Alexandra Watson and accompanied by pianist Daniel Cooper.
The excellent selection included Italian favourites ‘Un bel dì vedremo’ (from Madama Butterfly by Giacomo Puccini), ‘Nessun dorma’ (from Turandot by Giacomo Puccini), ‘O mio babbino caro’ (from Gianni Schicchi by Giacomo Puccini), ‘O sole mio’, and ‘Time to say goodbye’ by Andrea Bocelli.
To round off this special day, tours of the Discovery Wall on He Hononga | Ground Floor and the Production Studio on Auahatanga | Level 4 were offered. Participants were urged to donate any images of Christchurch’s Italian community (or, for that matter, any Christchurch heritage photos!) to the Discovery Wall website.
After a demonstration of some of the exciting equipment available in Tūranga’s Production Studio and storage room, participants also came away with a little keepsake from the day - commemorative coins! The children in particular were entranced by the laser cutter cutting out the coins and etching Italian icons on them.
A massive thank you to the Dante Society including the event's main organisers, Maria Fresia, and Enrica Sciarrino, as well as to the wider Italian Community for all the fascinating and talented performances.
If you didn’t get to make it to this event, why not commemorate the day by trying an Italian eBook or eMagazine, uploading your Christchurch/Italian images to the discovery wall, or, if you are new to the Italian language and culture, trying out an Italian-themed read? Check out our Italian reading recommendations.
Helen, Vanessa, and Susan