- Art and Culture
Art and Culture
THE COPPA DI NESTORE (NESTOR’S CUP)
“Of Nestor…the good cup to drink from. Whoever drinks from this cup will quickly be overcome with desire and fall in love with the beautifully crowned Aphrodite”.
Nestor’s cup is the most important artifact in the “Museo di Villa Arbusto”. It consists of the famous cup that was imported from Rhodes and was rediscovered in a cremation tomb at Necropolis (the rich trousseau of the tomb is exposed in window 23 of the museum). Engraved on the cup is an epigram of three lines that alludes to the famous Nestor’s cup described in the Iliad,The inscription is in the Euboean alphabet (which proves that it was done in Pithecusae) and it is the only example of writing that has been passed down to us from a poetic passage in writing that was written at the same time as the Iliad. The text is written backwards as was typical of Phoenician writing. The second and third lines are perfect hexameters. The few small gaps in writing are all interpretable with certainty except for the second word in the first line which has four letters out of five that are missing.
ART IN ISCHIA
A painting, before becoming such, is a canvas, a blank canvas, a box of colours.
A sculpture, before taking on a shape, is a rock, a piece of wood, bronze, clay.
It is up to the artist who paints or sculpts to mold these objects into works of art and their beauty lies in everything that the artist knows how to express.
The artist is a man who is free to invent and express his personality along with everything that surrounds him in his art.
Several artists have been inspired by all the beautiful characteristics of the “Isola Verde” (The Green Island) and have expressed all the freshness and Mediterranean characteristics of the island in their artistic works.
The handicrafts of Ischia have their origins from the past era of Greek colonization. In Lacco Ameno discoveries have been made of furnaces, ceramics, crocks and worked metals which are all proof of the richness and variety of commercial and manufacturing activities that occurred here once upon at time . The raw materials for the terra cotta industry were furnished by the nearby Mount Epomeo which was rich in clay. Vases, and crockery were discovered in hilly areas. With an area so rich and fertile, it is easy to understand how the local handicrafts were tied to another important element in the life of those living on the island: agriculture. It was a custom of the islanders to reap and sow legumes and cereals, as well as a hard wheat called “carosella” , which had a fleshy stock on a straight and long stem that was suitable for working into woven handicrafts. The inhabitants of the higher areas used to sell their products downstream. Skilled weavers and perhaps children (at this time they were free from field work) used to make braided art, baskets, little hats, fans, boxes, hampers and toys. During the early 50’s, Ischia underwent a transformation with increased tourism. Wheat cultivation disappeared and consequently, even the hay with which several handcrafts were made had also disappeared. Since there was less straw, the use of raffia from Africa, as well as rush, became more common. These materials required a new skill set for creating handicrafts.
Despite this change, the art of weaving with plant based materials is still seen today using the old techniques of traditional work done on the island. These are techniques that are now passed on through the generations as if they were historic souvenirs.
It is a difficult task to try to define one architectural style on an island of so many colors, offering sea and mountains and such variety of perfumes. Ischia is a melting pot of models, styles, perceptions and constraints that have been pursued, through the centuries of its history. This melting pot is the fruit of various colonisations, of the needs of its inhabitants and of the possibilities offered to them. lts hamlets, streets, churches and hinterlands area are a continuous alternation of forms and substances that outline the important historic past of this island.
Examples of the Spanish-Aragonese tradition and the necessities of this historical period can be seen in the old marine hamlet of Ischia Ponte and at the Aragonese Castle which is a marvellous example of harmony with nature, an appropriate use of space, military and construction abilities, knowledge of geometric figures and forms, constructed over the sea and linked to the mainland only by one bridge. Amongst the few remains recovered in Cartaromana, Nitrodi and Cava Scura, we note traces of the old Roman rule. The first tourists “ante Iitteram” of our island, were interested in preserving the island mainly for its thermal treasures.
We can get a feel of the Mid-Orient and of the Turkish rule by visiting the municipality of Forio. Approaching the beautiful Soccorso Church, one cannot help but notice the traces of an architecture that is a mixture of Byzantine and Moresque influences.
It is in the Ischitana hinterland that the true island spirit developed based on the constrictions and styles that were inspired by the needs, materials and geophysical nature of the territory. This allowed for the development of traditional constructions such as the “homes in the rock”, the “parracine” , the “carusiello domes”, all elements that mesh with the real rituals associated with their construction.
The clever inhabitants of the area, needed to run from pirate invasions and to create new cultivation areas which lead to the construction of homes right in the rock (known as ”case di pietra”, “houses of stone”). Gigantic portions of rocks, which detached themselves from the SURROUNDING mountains after various manifestations of volcanic activity, are perfectly camouflaged within the greenery of the island,and can be found in the villages of Ciglio, Cuotto, Panza and Falanga. These houses of stone were used and are still used today for a variety of purposes:as rural homes, cool cellars, reservoirs for collecting water, storage rooms for farm equipment, and places of worship.
The parracine are masterpieces reflecting the technical abilities of those who built them; they are found throughout the territory and made of the lava rocks or green or yellow tuff rock found in the area. No mortar is used and therefore allows for the flow of rain-water and avoids the flooding of land. Often homes are made with “carusiello”- shaped domes, semicircular vaults or flat domes,and then completed with a roof of lapillus or lime. These roofs, called Asteco – are constructed by a team of people (master builder, the foreman, the pavers and the beaters) who beat the lapillus to make it uniform. The building was accompanied by the musician’s lairon and tambourine playing and was a characteristic ritual on the island. The team would work together with the beaters flanked along the entire surface of the roof; members changed positions with the team’s head through perpendicular movements, and is symbolic of the united spirit within the community,and marks how such intentions have been forgotten in most parts of the world. In short, the island’s architecture is the offspring of the Greeks, and Romans, of the Turks and Spaniards, and also of the sea, of the land and of the rock and fire that form this island. It is also the product of the cleverness and needs of those who have lived for centuries on this fertile land of life, magic and passion.
On Easter Monday and on June 24th every year, an exhibition of the ‘Ndrezzata” is held in the courtyard of the Church of San Giovanni Battista. This is the traditional island dance in which dancers in two concentric circles intertwine and dance to the sound of the “mazarielli”. Its origin derives from Moorish spring and carnival rituals. The courtyard ceremony dates back to a 17th century agreement between the people of Buonopane and Barano.
A vattut’ e ll’astreche
The dance recalls the construction of the dome roofs known as “carusiello” in dialect, which characterized the Ischitana and Mediterranean architecture until the 1950s. The construction was carried out according to well-defined canons: the roof tile was prepared with a wooden frame, which in turn was covered with a cloak of clay and lapillo. At this point, the “Vattut e ll’astreche” began, i.e. the cutaway of the roof, as they had to compress the white lime wet lapillo to make it waterproof. After three days of uninterrupted work, a wooden pole “Puntuni” with a lower expanded end was used, to squeeze the lapillo more easily. The local community usually took part in the construction of the building and to alleviate the heavy work, the beaters (called “Puntunari”) sang and they talked about anecdotes and rhymes. The rhythm of the staves on lapillo was dictated by a group of musicians that included a drummer, a clarinetist and an accordionist.
In the dance there are six or eight dancers (“Puntunari”) with a stick, who rotate continuously around a wooden shape (representing the dome roof) and at the same time violently striking it. Even in dance, a rhythmic count is determined, while choral singing is introduced and accompanied by wind instruments. The dance is mainly divided into two parts: the first, characterized by a slow pace and the presence of various anecdotes within the song; The second part of the dance, is recognised by its very fast rhythmic pace.