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My Exhibition Charcoal Burners

At the Italian Culture Institute in Hamburg. During full lockdown, Director Nicoletta Di Blasi hosted my exhibition that was presented to the public through this interview and through the virtual channels of the Institute. I am really happy about this event and about the effort that Nicoletta and her lovely team spent to realize this exhibition and to advertise it. The catalogue of the exhibition is available here.

Serra San Bruno is a town in the province of Vibo Valentia, in Calabria, southern Italy. Here, and in most of the area of the Serre Vibonesi, since the early years of the twentieth century, wooden domes covered in mud stood up to six meters high, as evidence of one of the hardest jobs in the Italian mountains: the charcoal maker. Once, the charcoal burners used to leave their home and move into the woods from spring to autumn. Whole families relocated and settled among the trees until there would have been enough wood to make coal. Men, children and women: the latter, in addition to helping their husbands in the production of coal, had also the task of looking after and raising their children and, when necessary, carrying their pregnancies to term. Life was hard at the time. Everything was done manually and the coal was very important for the restaurant industry, for heating and for the different uses that were made of it. he only difference is that today it is the wood going to the charcoal and not the opposite. As a matter of fact, the charcoal burners still working have special private sites, called “cantieri”, where they get big trucks loaded with ready for processing wood. Here, the master charcoal maker begins the building of the scarazzo, and goes on with all the above procedure, exactly as it was once carried out. Young people no longer want to undertake a job that, despite technology, is still hard, dangerous, long and dirty. Many prefer to start a business, go to university and, even if some of them help their parents in the production, they will finally end up carrying out also other different activities and this will make the charcoal burner an endangered job.

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