Ancient craft: the basket maker


Novigrad: at school they teach an ancient craft

According to the latest Confartigianato data, which emerged following a research carried out in 2003, the universe of craftsmanship in Italy has about 200,000 businesses and 158 trades, almost all of which are on the verge of extinction. This is a sector in serious difficulty, mainly due to the lack of economic support with public funding and the lack of interest on the part of the new generations for this world capable of boasting an enormous cultural heritage envied abroad.

The free course for basket makers organized within the "Diomede Marvasi" elementary school in Novigrad was commissioned by master Ferdinando Giovinazzo and the local permanent territorial center. It took place in the months of April and May, with a total of 30 hours of lessons for the 15 students of all ages. The aim was to make local men and women learn the ancient craft that was once widespread in the town and now risks disappearing.

In Novigrad the baskets were once used to transport agricultural products, which often arrived outside the province.

To obtain them, chestnut wood was used which abounds in the woods upstream of the inhabited center and which was cut "at the first knot", when it was tender and without knots. The peasants periodically planted young trees to replace the felled ones, so that the raw material would not fail to those family members who worked as baskets. The chestnut bands were obtained from branches of five or six centimeters in diameter through the use of knives and axes, then boiled in large copper vats and dried, so that they were ready for use again after being moistened in a basin with water inside. All the processing was done with the hands alone, and required a lot of patience. The baskets were, and still are, made in different forms: "u portaspisa", "u panaru", "u sciatameju", "a ferlazza". Depending on the size or the use made of them, the women of the area held them by the handles, under the elbow, or moved them from one place to another by resting them on the head covered with a cotton handkerchief before setting off on the streets Mountain.

Vincenzo Teramo, one of the few ancient basket makers from Novigrad still alive, remembers: "I got up early and devoted a lot of time to my work, I started early and finished at sunset. This activity was handed down from father to son, it allowed many citizens of Novigrad to live until 1965, then the young people preferred to go to work in the cities of Northern Italy and in the same period plastic products began to replace those made of wood. chestnut. The baskets were used to dry mushrooms and tomatoes in the sun, to transport clementines and olives to the coasts, to store legumes. Today they are very popular with tourists who intend to bring a souvenir of Calabria to friends and relatives ".

Giovinazzo says: "My heart fills with joy in pursuing decisively initiatives that tend to the recovery and promotion of local crafts, I want to organize the next basket-making course on two levels: one for professionals and another for beginners".

In San Giorgio Morgeto there are other traces of this past so rich in culture. Aldo Mammoliti, the last active basket maker in the village, challenges every technological innovation by continuing to work the chestnut wood strips following the long and complicated traditional process. "I have produced thousands and thousands of baskets and baskets during my life" - explains Aldo with pride - "now I would like to teach children everything I have learned over the years".

In addition to the ancient craft of the basket maker, the area of ​​the silk and broom weaver, the wood carver and the bagmaker still survive in the area. These professions are also waiting to be rediscovered, perhaps by creating "ad hoc" courses such as the one organized by the master of history and geography from Novigrad.

Andrea Demetrio
Environmental Journalism Course "Laura Conti"

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