Mediterranean, a sea of stories: Ferdinando Scianna
For centuries, millennia, the Mediterranean was not a sea, it was the sea. And rather than a sea, it was the world. The whole world. Along its shores and in the lands bathed by its waters stories occurred that were or purported to be the entire story of humanity. This sea witnessed the birth and expansion of empires, and watched them die, it invented the words that have given substance to thoughts, fantasies, the religions that have constituted the origins of culture, of civilizations of which we are all still the progeny, even those who lived and continue to live in other boundless seas and continents, who left these shores to discover and conquer. But it is in the Mediterranean that everything originated. It was long believed that beyond the Pillars of Hercules marking its confines lay mystery, or nothing at all. But men are not daunted by any limits, and don’t accept mysteries.
Between the people of the Mediterranean-world, there was love and much massacre. And there continues to be so. And they continue to cross it and to die there, in pursuit of dignity and myth.
History is also constituted of much folly, too much folly. But you only have to travel through the countries of the Mediterranean to discover that whatever the differences and contrasts in the cultures might appear to be, in reality these differences, at times expressed with lethal ferocity, in the everyday life and beliefs of the various populations and religions, are merely variations, often minimal, of the same thought, the same character, of the same cultural and human family.
In the Mediterranean countries it is difficult to imagine a natural landscape, even less so one that is wild. For thousands of years, every centimetre of land has been mapped out, sculpted, laboriously, through necessity, but it could be said, with a particular aesthetic sense, by the human hand.
The landscape of the lands that look onto the Mediterranean is very varied and distinctive, often memorable. Land where grain, fruit and vegetables are cultivated. Trees and plants that not only serve to produce food, but also to contribute beauty and sweetness to people’s lives. Predrag Matvejević stated that the Mediterranean begins and ends where the olive tree grows and produces fruit. The olive tree, but also orange, lemon and almond trees, tomatoes, pines, an abundance of vegetables, as well as jasmine, and the many other decorative plants and flowers in the countryside that gladden the eye and the senses of the people who live there. And what about the animals, the romantic herds that complete the imaginative and varied designs drawn by the plough and which are essential to the infinite variety of cheeses and the cream that enhances the unlimited passion for cakes and pastries. For many years now, traditional farming has been joined by the shimmering of the vast areas covered by greenhouses. A landscape that speaks of history, of life, but which still manages to express itself with the spontaneity and masterful beauty of a great work of art.
The passage of time, the changing of the seasons, the different stages in the lives of man, are marked in every place and in every culture on earth by the rituals that accompany them.
In the Mediterranean, they are numerous, varied and extremely colourful. They resemble an astral clock, cyclically reminding us of the changing of the seasons, the time to sow and to reap, the best time to catch certain fish, just like the events in the myth, religion and history on which the identity of each people or nation is founded. But rituals of various kinds also accompany the episodes in the lives of every individual, birth, the passage from infancy to youth, to maturity, marriage, and finally death. Celebration and suffering, the memory of these. In other words, rituals are the symbolic theatrical representation, whether secular or religious, with which individuals mark the events of their lives—be they of a personal, family, or collective nature, sanctioning and reiterating their belonging to a place, a community, struggles, victories and defeats which those communities have created in the course of time. The religions, the landscape, the historical events may change, but in their diversity the same shared sentiment remains. The rituals are at times solemn, at times orgiastic, at times intimate, at times as deafening as fireworks.Every ritual, wherever it might be, is always accompanied by the aromas of certain dishes, certain pastries, certain flavours that are inextricably associated with those rites and, perhaps more than anything, with everyone’s memories of childhood.
A geographical location is composed of space and time. Collective time and that of the individuals who have constructed its appearance and its history. This is what makes it a place of belonging, a place of the heart. It is a circle, a sphere. And the centre of this circle and of this sphere is the family.
It is within the family that we all discover and construct a sense of belonging, our own identity. It is within the family that love and attachments unfold, and it is there that the rituals of everyday life enabling us to discover who we are and why, are celebrated. Sometimes this process leads to the danger of excessive association of identity with diversity, causing us to experience diversity as a closed cell, as an exclusive superiority. And we are all aware of the problems this can create.
But the real importance and significance of the family lies in the wealth of the shared rituals celebrated within it. The ritual that leaves the deepest impression on our character and memory is probably the ritual of meals shared together. A family ritual, but also the ritual of a community.
Those flavours, aromas and dishes prepared by our mothers remain embedded in our consciousness with the same force as our tongue, which is not called “mother” for nothing, and with which we learn to express the thoughts and feelings from which our memory is constructed. Tools vital for comparison, curiosity, and with which we also learn to explore the world, to know others. Even to understand them and love them".
Ferdinando Scianna was born in Bagheria, Sicily, in 1943. He started taking photographs in the 1960s while attending the Faculty of Arts and Philosophy at Palermo University. During this period, he systematically photographed Sicily, its people and its festivals, publishing "Feste religiose in Sicilia" (Leonardo Da Vinci Editrice) in 1965. In 1967 Scianna moved to Milan and worked for the magazine "L’Europeo" as a reporter and then as its correspondent in Paris. In 1977 he published in France "Les Siciliens" (Denoel), and "Villa dei mostri" (Giulio Einaudi Editore) in Italy. He got to know Henri Cartier-Bresson and, in 1982, joined Magnum. Since 1987 he has alternated reportage with fashion photography. Scianna has published a vast number of photobooks, articles on photography and on photo-based communication. In 2013 the books of photographs and texts "Ti mangio con gli occhi" and "Visti e scritti" (Contrasto), are issued.
The area between the various member countries’ pavilions is keyed on the color blue, characteristic of the Mediterranean sea. In the center of the structure are the traditional open-air cooking areas that represent a classic image of this region.
Here, visitors will find a selection of products typical of Mediterranean cuisine: olive oil, bread, and various wines. In this area, visitors have the chance to take part in food preparation classes, or attend cooking demonstrations.
Places and food constitute the central theme of this Cluster, a three-fold story told, respectively, via images, literature, and cinema. The design of the Cluster integrates the structures needed to tell these stories. For example, on the twenty-one columns that frame the main square feature display panels which serve to link the three narratives.
Stories of a civilization
The Mediterranean sea connects three continents: Europe, Africa, and Asia. This region is a melting pot of populations where history, civilizations, and the natural environment have blended over time. Food has played a vital role in helping to preserve the unique qualities of this area and, over many centuries, a wide array of food traditions have formed, based on local resources such as wheat, olives, and grapes.
In the Mediterranean area, a meal is seen as an essential aspect of social and cultural life. The main characteristic of the Mediterranean diet is that of taking the time to enjoy a meal, replete with the local rituals connected to the communal eating experience.
The people of the Mediterranean area probably spend more time preparing and eating their meals than do those anywhere else in the world. The Mediterranean diet is not only considered healthy but it also protects agricultural biodiversity, while local cultivation methods respect criteria for sustainability.
COUNTRIES BELONGING TO THIS CLUSTER