A couple of years ago, the mayor of Guardia Sanframondi came back from a trip to Scotland with a great deal of excitement – he’d been to the Edinburgh Tattoo and had been totally blown away. He said he was going to do a Tattoo in Guardia, and I thought …oh my!
Last year we had a short test run, to try out the concept, and then this year; the full spettacolo – and it was just like Edinburgh castle in miniature!
Here’s a glimpse of it – a glorious mish-mash snippet of this mix of cultures, dances, music and merriment: a truly wonderful event – particularly the grande finale where everyone was jigging like a Guardiolo.
It was filmed for RAI TV and live-streamed, with journalist Rino Genovese introducing and commentating!
I’m particularly honoured by the words that the mayor spoke, on our cultural interweaving, and on the positive energy and inspiration which I’ve helped bring to the town.
Every year here, I feel more part of this beautiful fabric of people and land, happenings and interactions: it feels like we’re weaving an ever-richer fabric, which every year becomes even more bright and fascinating, more biodiverse and colourful.
Bravi a tutti del Sannio Tattoo – e alla prossima!
Talking of culture, I hope that we can continue with positive attitudes and events like these, which celebrate multiculturalism and tradition side by side –rather than closing the city’s doors to anyone who isn’t from the privileged ‘west’. There has been some extremely ugly chat on social media this past month, by foreigners and locals alike, declaring that they don’t want migrants or refugees here, for fear of ‘crime’, ‘devaluing house prices’ and the ‘halting of our Guardia Renaissance’.
I have never heard such blatant racism flaunted as perverse economic sense – oh, apart from in England of course – and am genuinely disturbed i particular that individuals in Guardia’s foreign contingency have such obscene opinions.
We have a collective responsibility and huge power of influence – particularly within a small community like this – but also, radiating out into the world. If I could come here – wageless and with dwindling savings, without contacts or language, and if I could both create my dream life-work and help put in motion this massive positive dynamic in Guardia Sanframondi – just imagine what others with passion and dreams could do.
It’s not about how much fricking money we bring to the table; it’s about our positive energy and intention, and how (or if!) we’re welcomed in to contribute this energy and intention. That is why my presence here has been instrumental in influencing expansion on many levels; cultural, economic, social, environmental, political, spiritual – it was because I had vision and determination, and I wanted to be a part of something real: to find a place to contribute. And, as I was offered a place to belong, I was able and willing to channel more and more creativity to the collective.
I can say with authority that being a successful foreigner is first and foremost about being humble, rather than demanding that things change to suit you; it’s about listening first and waiting to be asked a question, rather than blabbing your opinion in a loud voice and assuming everyone should understand your language; it’s about first being willing to make a fool of yourself – whether with the language, customs, relationships or business transactions – to lay oneself open (even, to be vulnerable) to whatever might arise, whilst learning all the way.
It’s about humility, and about knowing that we are all learning from each other, we all have something to contribute, we all need things from each other. It’s about knowing that when you give everything, you will always get way more than you need in return.
It’s about blushing and bloopers and being well outside of your comfort zone – if you’re in your comfort zone abroad, and/ or insisting not to be pulled out of it, then you’re likely missing a huge deal of experience, connection, integration, opportunity, value, presence, depth, atmosphere and reality in your foreign community!
Being deeply connected in a new place is about knowing that people are so much more than the sum of their parts, and that a community and culture are even more so: community and culture cannot be prescribed, dictated or controlled: it must be lived, and allowed to flourish naturally, coming from the enthusiastic contribution from all members: community is like a dynamic pool – with water entering and leaving and moving around, in a healthy river – rather than a stagnant pond of dry old energy, gathering algae.
Most migrants and refugees have battled with war and famine, impossible odds and near-death sea crossings, loss and grief and violence of every kind, unimaginable (to us) hunger and terror… and yet they arrive in the land of plenty, and are faced with condemnation for their very existence, even before they have told their story or found a roof over their heads. They’re already assumed to be criminals, and without any potential to contribute; they’re effectively told that they have no ‘value’ and thus cannot sit at ‘our’ table.
And this is ‘justified’ by ‘I’m just worried about the crime’ – as if this were a reason to leave people to drown and starve, to live degrading lives and not have basic needs met: all so that our comfort and affluence won’t be challenged in any way. Yeh – we can always donate to charity online, eh?
But people who have the least resources are often the most resourceful (my story is an example of this) – and they can be the most determined too: people migrating or seeking refuge (e.g. from Africa to Europe) with all their intense experience and hopes, all their inner resources and heartfelt wishing, their grossly pent up energy and emotions and penned in wisdom – it is up to us whether we give that a place to express itself creatively or if we lock it in a box without possibility. You should know that you’re doing the latter if you “…don’t want migrants in my town!”
One thing is for sure: big, big potential energy contained in a box, denied a share of the wealth, denied a place at the table; this energy will eventually explode out of that box like a volcano, whether it be in protest or desperation – that is natural law. The foreign policies of many ‘western’ countries and the rousing of fearful, ignorant reactionism is leading directly to the most awful counteractions and symptoms, and the solutions are not about blanket closing of borders or denying comfort and sustenance to those in need: the solutions are all about sharing and being open, e basta.
Energetically speaking, the whole point of wealth – abundance – is that we have more to share with those around us: every interaction and intention becomes richer in energy – and this filters down/ outwards into the physical.
Thus, it takes a whole lot more than monetary investment to grow a thriving community, and folks who think about the numerical value (or lack of) of people first, and about protecting their own harvest/ treasure at all costs, then they haven’t learned anything about the mind-blowing alchemy and expansion which come via smiles, shared food, genuine charity, openness, positivity, collective vision, story-sharing, magical thinking, happy chaos…
Please let’s use our ‘white privilege’ not to line our own pockets and build our own castles with barbed wire, but to evolve our community, with warm hearts and open eyes and minds.
The pattern of ‘expattery’ doesn’t often have a positive long-term effect on a place and culture. More usually, the place eventually becomes commodified and made exclusive, and consequently cheapened and emptied of spirit and meaning. That doesn’t have to happen, but it has happened in many beautiful rural Mediterranean places which have been ‘claimed’ by an economic clique, and gentrified.
I really urge all ‘expats’ here to look at their position in the fabric of this place, and to make efforts to contribute something other than just dollars to this beautiful tapestry. In 10 years’ time, I really hope that we have a happy, healthy and diverse international culture here, filled with generous interaction and abundant conversation – an inspiration and example to others. I hope that we’ll be sharing all our stories and experience and ideas and food, just as has been done up to now.
As ever, tante belle cose, Clare