Renoir i Calabrien

Renoir i Calabrien

En lille fortælling om det uendeligt små og det uendeligt store…

Som altid skriver man i troen på at blive færdig i et hug, men virkeligheden indhenter en, så hvad der blev startet den 6.10. bliver en “never-ending-story” – som tiden dog går…

Det er fredag den 6.10. Klokken er 19:16. Il Meteo-appen har fortalt, at nu kommer fuldmånen frem. Den har også læst appen og gør som den skal. En smal rød stribe, der langsomt bliver til en sammenklemt blodappelsin for så at komme ud af skabet efter 15 minutter og få den farve, måner skal have med en lysende bro i havet mellem den og os i Calabrien. Jeg ved ikke, hvorfor vi altid har rød måne i Calabrien – det må have noget med breddegraden at gøre – 38 – nok til at månen også lægger sit sejl på sned som en windsurfer i vanskeligheder.

Det er stadig 23 grader, nok til at cikaderne støjer med en styrke, så Arbejdstilsynet ville have nedlagt forbud mod længere ophold på terrassen. Det er næsten mørkt og månen og den gullige vejbelysning kæmper om at lyse mest. Det har været en dejlig dag – en af dem, man skal huske og bruge til at fatsholde glæden og taknemmeligheden over, at man er så privilegeret, at man kan leve, opleve, være en del af en kultur og natur et så specielt sted.

Det startede med en tur på det store marked i Soverato. Selvom temperaturen siger sommer, så fortæller markedets udbud, at efteråret er kommet. Store sække med nyhøstede oliven, endnu større sække med kastanjer fra bjergene lige bag os, hvor ædelkastanjen vokser i skovene, så man skal bare bukke sig for at samle. De første citrusfrugter er dukket op – lidt for tidligt måske, for mandarinerne har stadig en lidt grøn farve. Vi køber også lokal rød grapefrugt og granatæbler.

Det slår os, at efteråret har sat gang i salget af udplantningsplanter – fennikel, røde løg fra Tropea, alle former for kål og salat står klar i små polystyren-bakker i miniature-udgave lige til at blive sat i jorden. Her er det ikke temperaturen, men nedbøren der bestemmer om ting kan gro og hvornår, de skal i jorden.

På markedet myldrer det som sædvanligt med små damer med pensionistrullere, der næsten er større end dem selv. 150-160 cm. er normal-højde for mange calabriere født lige efter krigen. Underligt, at dette frodige område ikke har kunnet levere proteiner og energi nok – det er som at være i Japan. Dværgevækst ses, måske også kretinisme, for de små samfund har været isoleret. Af og til dukker en rødhåret, blå øjet, højere calabrier op og leverer det endegyldige bevis på normannernes tilstedeværelse for 1000 år siden på samme måde som det gnistrende sorte hår og mandelformede øjne fortæller om saracenernes hærgen. Denne syditalienske melting pot, kunne være guf for Eske Willerslev – dna fra grækere, fønikere, etruskere, romere, normanner, spaniere – de har været her alle sammen – de fleste rejste hjem igen, så nu er der kun danskerne tilbage og med vores gennemsnitsalder er risikoen for yderligere gen-spredning nok begrænset, selvom det gode klima, vinen og maden af og til sætter lidt mere fut i de gamle mænd end i et råkoldt Danmark

Efter markedet tilbage til huset, for temperaturen er steget til 27 grader, luften er fugtig, solen slås med lidt vatskyer, men vinder. Derfor ned på stranden som ligger jomfruelig. Vi bader i 25 grader varmt vidunderligt klart vand, lægger os på tæppet og gennembages. Frokosten bliver sen, men hvad gør det, når tid er det, vi har mest af.

Berlingske indtages i liggestolen med en god kop Guglielmo espresso. Pludselig pusler det bag os. På nedgangen til nabohuset står en meget sort ung mand. Han kigger ned til os, hvor græsslåmaskinen står og sække til haveaffald ligger. “Cerco lavoro”, siger han med accent, men italiensk er det. Overlevelse er at kunne sproget, når man står og tager imod indkøbsvognen ved supermarkedet i håbet om 1€ eller tager en kasket på og leger selvbestaltet parkeringsvagt. Her er mange unge sorte mænd og der er de seneste år kommet flere, men de fleste forsøger at komme mod nord og samles i grænsebyerne mod Østrig og Schweiz, for hvorfor blive her i Italiens “Afrika”.

Mange afrikanere har en levevej på de omrejsende markeder, hvor de sælger lædervarer og sko – kopi fra Kina sikkert – globaliseringen i en nøddeskal: folkevandring, vandring af varer, ophævelse af den nationale ret til at beskytte sit og sine og vi er alle blevet rigere af det – selv den sorte mand med den fake Gucci-taske eller træfiguren, som ser afrikansk ud, men er made in China. Markedsfolket ser ud til at klare sig – værre er det med daglejerne. De samles i vores by på bestemte barer, hvor man kan hyre dem til forskelligt manuelt arbejde – 15-20 € for en dags arbejde og lidt mad er betalingen. For italienerne er det helt naturligt at bruge dem, mens vi danskere skal lære det, men hernede har de også både stemt på Mussolini og Berlusconi og enhver er sig selv nærmest og tænker kun på egne interesser. Tanken om fællesskabet/broderskabet/det fælles bedste er ikke en del af den kollektive bevidsthed, for selvfølgelig er der en kollektiv bevidsthed, men den knytter sig til historien, myten, naturen, dialekten – ikke måden vi som mennesker skal agere på for at optimere netop det fælles bedste.

Men egentlig var det ikke det, jeg ville fortælle. Jeg ville fortælle om Renoir i Calabrien, men blev hængende i alt det som er så forskelligt fra Danmark og som sætter så meget af deres og vores liv i perspektiv, men hvad er det nu med maleren Renoir i Calabrien, tapetmaleren som blev en af impressionismens ypperste med en æstetik som er så forskellig fra Calabriens rå kultur?:

Det begyndte for et år siden med en tur til Lago dell’Anghitola. I sædelommen på Easyjetten havde vi læst det sædvanlige rejsemagasin med lækre reklamer krydret med lidt turistinfo. Månedens udgave fokuserede på området ved Pizzo og Tropea i Calabrien – det mest turistede område. Et lille afsnit fortalte om den opdæmmede sø Lago d’Anghitola, beskyttet af WWF som et fuglereservat, hvor trækfugle på nord-syd-ruten som bådflygtninge tanker op på vejen inden turen over Middelhavet. Vi kørte derned, smukt, frodigt område, en lavvandet sø, træbevoksede bredder, observations-shelters, rimeligt rent selvom området bliver brugt som pic-nic-mål af de lokale som aldrig har hørt om begrebet “skovsvin”, men kun kender vildsvin som også havde gjort deres bedste for at “tøffe” stierne op.

Den store ornitologiske oplevelse lod vente på sig for ikke at sige udeblev, men 4 måger, en vipstjært og en hvid hejre blev det til. På vejen tilbage besøgte vi byen Monterosso Calabro der ligger med udsigt over søen og det Thyrrenske hav, hvor man på en klar dag kan se Stromboli og Sicilien som en sidegevinst. Et par måneder senere fandt jeg ved et tilfælde en bog hos Amazon af canadieren Michael Caputo, “A Coin in Calabria” (bilag) som er fortællingen om hans barndom i Calabrien i 50’erne og 60erne og familiens udvandring til Canada. Velskrevet, tankevækkende bog og så kom det mærkelige: Han stammer fra området ved netop Lago dell’Angitola fra byen Capistrano tæt ved Monterosso Calabro. Et afsnit i bogen hedder “Renoir in Calabria” (bilag 1). Jeg fortalte om den spændende bog og endnu mærkeligere historie om maleren Renoir. Selvfølgelig skulle vi ned og se byen og billedet, men som altid i Calabrien tager den ene dag den anden, men en tirsdag skulle det være. Det tager en time at køre til Capistrano, hvor billedet skulle være i byens kirke. Vi bor jo på østkysten ved det Ioniske Hav, mens Capistrano ligger i bjergene mod det Thyrrenske hav, så vi skal over over vandskellet og bjergene i naturparken Serre.

Vejen dertil er god, så uden problemer når vi frem og parkerer. Udsigten fra byen over havet er spektakulær. På vej ind i byen ser vi et skilt til Cristo Redentore, men tænker ikke nærmere over det – nu gælder det Renoir. Kirken ses tydeligt i bybilledet. Sen-barok, velholdt og åben – det sidste ikke mindst vigtigt, for hvor tit er vi ikke kommet frem til låste kirker. Vi træder ind i det store kirkerum, hvor en på alle måder gyseslig loftsfresker er det første, man får øje på. Rummet er mørkt, især når øjnene er blændet af dagens sollys. Lige ved indgangen ved døbefonten skimter man en freske – Renoirs billede af Jesu dåb. Fresken er ikke belyst, så med lidt hjælp fra mobiltelefonens lommelygte afsløres billedet i sin helhed, mens øjnene også langsomt vænner sig til mørket. Det er ikke noget mesterværk, ”nydeligt” er måske det bedste ord. Er det Renoir?? Umuligt at afgøre, men kilderne er rimelig klare og for lokalbefolkningen er der ingen tvivl – Renoir var der, han malede, han avlede børn, så der er flere nepoter i byen. Flere af de lokale kontaktede os, viste stolthed, fortalte, så jo, en udflugt værd og næste gang skal vi også se Cristo Rendentore som knejser i majestæt 100 m. over byen som Kristusfiguren i Rio. Og som altid var byen fyldt med gamle damer klædt i sort, pittoreske huse (nogle ville sige ædelt forfald) eller som Albert Speer sagde: “Ruinværdi”. Calabrien har altid noget at byde på, hvis man er til mere end all-inclusive og ikke tilhører den specielle race af pool-liggere.

Så slutter dette lille udkast til en rejsefortælling og fortsættes måske i den uendelighed af tid der forhåbentlig ligger for an os.

 

Bilag 1

Michael Caputo

uddrag af

“The Coin from Calabria”

RENOIR IN CAPISTRANO?

The new school year began. New teachers appeared. My new art teacher, Franco Natale, a local teacher, was wonderful to have.  He was brimming with energy; he was confident, creative and always warm and friendly. He belonged to the Natale family, a family of exceptionally gifted people, artistically and musically. His grandfather was Maestro Natale, who many years ago had been the town’s Postmaster, the town’s Mayor and the Maestro of the local band. My father, who knew him well, described him as eccentric, intense and brilliant. His genes clearly were passed on to several of his descendents who later excelled in various fields.

Franco was particularly gifted in art. He had discovered his artistic talents while in the police force. Later he became an art teacher and I had the privilege of being one of his students. Little did we know that tall, dynamic and enthusiastic man, many years later, would have become a successful artist who would have won several art awards.

One day Mr. Natale shared with us something which, by the look on his face, appeared to be particularly important. He announced to us grade sevens something he had concluded about the, “Baptism of Jesus’” mural found on the wall behind the baptistery of our main church. His conclusion was that it had been painted by a man whose name we had never heard before: “Renoir.”

We had no idea of who Renoir had been, but we knew that he had to have been an important painter. It was also evident by the name that he was not Italian. What was a foreigner, who obviously had to have been very important, doing in a small town located among olive groves, in a far away land? It was a puzzle, but at our young age we did not really care.

Mr. Natale announced that he was planning to ask the people from the Ministry of Fine Arts to come and look at the mural, so as to validate his views. I stored the announcement in the same location of my mind where the name of my coin had been stored, so as not to be forgotten — and it was never forgotten.

Probably the summer that followed, while I was playing in the piazza, I saw Mr. Natale, Don Nicolino Manfrida, our parish priest, and two authoritative-looking people enter the church. I was quite sure Mr. Natale was showing them the mural. I do not recall how long they stayed in the church, but I immediately suspected that they had to have been the people Mr. Natale was hoping to get to come and investigate.  Of course, I had no way of validating my suspicion and to today I have no idea as to who they were.

I heard nothing about their verdict. But I did not forget the evolving story. I kept all the details stored in my mind. The verdict was finally rendered several years later.

Upon my return home, many years later, I found that Mr. Natale’s views had been validated. The consensus was that Renoir, the famed French impressionist painter, had indeed come to our town and that he had totally re-painted parts, or all of the mural, as his son had written about in his biography, Renoir my Father.

I have recently discovered that, in reality, Mr. Natale had not been the first one to conclude that Renoir had visited and had done some work in my town. Two teachers by the name of Giovanni Curatola and Giuseppe Pisani, who were teaching in Capistrano, and a journalist by the name of Sharo Gambino had reached this conclusion before Mr. Natale, upon reading Renoir’s biography. Mr. Natale was informed of the possibility by his two colleagues and he too quickly became a firm supporter of that view.

In the aforementioned biography, Renoir’s son describes his father’s trip to Calabria intended to visit a priest, whom had met while in Naples. The priest described to him the beauty of Calabria and that inspired Renoir to travel south to visit the area. “While in Naples, Renoir stayed in a little inn patronized especially by the clergy. ‘When we sat down to eat spaghetti with tomato sauce, I was the only not dressed in black.’”

He then shares that his father, “had great discussions on theology with a man next to him, a gaunt priest with a huge nose.” He continues, “The priest in question was from Calabria, and his description of his part of the country gave my father a desire to see it. And so Renoir set out with a letter of introduction from the bishop, which his friend had obtained.”

Because there were few railroads and roads in Calabria, “he did part of the journey in a fishing boat, going from one port to another and the rest on foot.”

During his trip to Calabria, the French painter used the bishop’s letter to help him find accommodations in priest’s homes along the way, who showed him much kindness. “Often a parish priest who had only a pallet to sleep on would turn it over to him, and go himself to sleep in the stable with the donkey.”

What left Renoir astounded about Calabria was the poverty of the area. Yet in spite of their poor condition, Calabrians welcomed Renoir warmly and did their best to make his visit as comfortable as possible. “The poverty of the region was almost unbelievable. Yet everyone put himself out to receive the visitor.”

The food eaten by our ancestors consisted of a few basics. “The meals were more than simple. In some villages the inhabitants lived entirely on beans, and had seldom tasted spaghetti or macaroni…”

Because of lack of bridges, Renoir had difficulty crossing some rivers swollen by heavy rains. In one case he told his son that he had no way of crossing one particular river. The solution was offered by a peasant woman who saw him unable to cross. She called a dozen or so other peasants who were working in the fields nearby, and “they all came to the rescue, laughing and chattering in their dialect…” The peasants came up with an ingenious solution. “They picked up my father and his baggage, waded into the river, and forming a line across it, passed him from one to another like a rugby football.”

Renoir was touched by all the kindness our people and wanted to reciprocate. They were not particularly interested in his money, but they gladly accepted a portrait of their “bambino.”

Renoir’s son then shares with us the most relevant detail: “In a mountain village Renoir restored the frescoes, which had been destroyed by humidity.” Renoir told his son that he had no experience in fresco painting nor did have the necessary paints to do the job. Being resourceful, he found what he needed at local mason’s. “I didn’t know much about fresco painting. I found some paints in powder form, at the mason’s in the village.” Given the low quality of the material used, he asked himself, “I wonder if what I did lasted.”

His stay in Calabria and my town must have been exceptionally positive. His final assessment of my people gives me a deep feeling of sadness and pride. “All the Calabrians I met were generous and so cheerful in the midst of their poverty.”[1] Though Calabrians in those challenging days lived in abject poverty, they coped with the paucity in their lives with cheerfulness and were very kind and giving people toward strangers.

According to Pino La Serra, a local artist, art restaurateur and President of the Renoir in Capistrano Association, Renoir went to my town and, upon visiting the local church in the company of Don Francesco Bongiorno, the town’s wealthiest man, he saw behind the baptistery a mural badly damaged by humidity. Renoir was shocked by the condition of the fresco. Don Francesco asked him if he could repair it. After at first refusing, he promised him that, upon his return from his trip to other southern areas he would have fulfilled his wishes. Renoir kept his word in May of 1882 when he returned to Capistrano and completed the promised work in the space of three days. Among other proofs, a drawing titled, “Calabrian Landscape” by Renoir was offered by Pino as further evidence that Renoir had indeed come and worked in my town. The drawing shows Capistrano as it looked in the late 1800’s, as seen from the Batia area, with our church clearly represented in the distance. [2]

In recent years more evidence of Renoir’s visit to Capistrano and of his work on the “Baptism of Jesus” and other murals has been offered by the local artist-philosopher, Mario Guarna, in his book Gli affreschi di Renoir a Capistrano(Renoir’s Frescos in Capistrano).[3] In his book, Mario proposes interesting stylistic evidence to support the presence of Renoir’s touch in some of the frescos found in the church.

The fact that Renoir came to Capistrano and that he left his artistic witness in the main church became a source of great pride for my people who had, up to that point, so little to be proud of. The square where I spent so many special moments as a child was renamed, “Piazza Renoir.” Presently tourists that tour our area of Calabria are, on occasion, taken to see the Capistrano Renoir, to the delight of many Capistranesi.