Three years ago I was in Napoli to accompany an actor to an audition for the crive tv serie Gomorrah. While we were waiting for the actor to be called, I met a group of guys who accompanied a friend. Their friend’s name is Marco and he is a playwright, an actor and director too. He wrote for theather and for cinema and he told to me about his projects and about some researches he had done on Pulcherna, the Etruscan soul of Pulcinella. He had also written a theatrical work on Pulcherna. This theatrical work was selected at the Theater Marrakech Festival, at the time of the Arab Spring.
The origins, history and evolution of the mask of Pulcinella who is the symbol of Neapolitan culture kidnapped me and I listened to Marco’s stories enchanted. Marco is a good actor and his interpretation was passionate and engaging. Those who were in the room with us and who listened to this story were equally captured.
The chat was interrupted because Marco was called to be auditioned. Before we said goodbye, he invited me to an event that would take place a few weeks later. The event was the Feast of ‘A Madonna d’ ‘and Rrose (Madonna delle Rose) which, for some years now, it takes place on May 30.
The Madonna delle Rose is the Madonna of the artists. In reality she is not canonically authorized, as they are the seven Madonnas of the popular tradition of Campania, but I remembered having heard of her. In fact, she is mentioned in a drama by Eduardo De Filippo written in 1946 and entitled Filumena Marturano. This however was the only reference I had about it. On May 30 at the feast of the Madonna d ‘’e Rrose, I went there. A group of people, organized in the courtyard of a beautiful building in via San Giovanni Maggiore Pignatelli, welcomed me with a glass of red wine and accompanied me inside the palace.
Francesco played tammorra, Ciccio played accordion, Martina sang and Marco was telling the story of Pulcherna. There were people dancing, there were people commenting the paintings, there were artists drawing.
At the center of the courtyard, as to represent an altar, there was a very large painting of the Madonna d ‘ ‘e Rrose. On the porch there were other representations made with different techniques, all representing ‘A Madonna d’ ‘e Rrose.
Cloth drapes everywhere, handmade decorations, garlands of flowers and roses for the Madonna. In one corner of the porch a large space had been gained for a very long table displaying wine, rustic pies, cold cuts, and a large pot of pasta and beans. Traditional songs from Campania and Calabria, tales of strangers, exchanges of ideas, laughter and a lot of wonder for the abundance of art and for the abundance of love and hospitality. Those things characterized a moment that became even magical when all together left for a musical parade through the streets of the historic center of Napoli. From 11AM until late at night, dancing and singing just like it was long time ago. These are things that, personally, I only experienced in Calabria 25 years ago. At that time, in fact, I believed that popular traditions were strongly rooted only in small towns and countryside areas. At this point I had to change my mind.
The Madonna d ’ ‘e Rrose this year opened a series of events divided into 3 phases, just like the phases of the covid emergency.
The opening phase, defined phase 1, took place on May 30th, as usual for the Feast of the Madonna d ‘’e Rrose.
Many young people participated with interest in the party that started the “Artistic Contagion”. They were kidnapped by the magic of the sound of tammorre and the soundtrack of our history. Some tourists who were on the street participated with enthusiasm. After a parade through the streets of the historic centerthe followers of the Madonna joined the workers of entertainment industry who demonstrated on the same day in Piazza del Plebiscito.
The artists of the Madonna d ’ ‘e Rrose exhibited 20 paintings at Piazza del Plebishito and the Madonna was greeted by everyone with applause and roses. The artists of the Madonna offered roses to the police and to the city policemen who smiled and escorted them throughout the parade route admiring the works of art. The demonstration was made in full rules and in peace. The Regional News Tv dedicated a space about the event. “Artistic Contagion” Phase 2 . The event took place at Galleria Principe di Napoli and it featured the exhibition of 15 young artists and an installation by Rita Esposito, a Neapolitan artist who has woven a canvas for 33 moons. Through workshops she have taught to many women, disagiate women, to make roses with wool. Roses that the artist then added to her installation . I deeply believe (and I am not the only one) that even from ugly things, with embroidery and textures, beauty can arise.
“Artistic Contagion” phase 2 continued with screenings, installations, video poems, performances by the puppeteer Nigel Lembo, and by the puppeteer Bruno Leone, traditional music and ancient dance. The final musical walk lasted until 6 AM of the following day.
“Artistic Contagion” phase 3, the final one, saw a two days exposition of 50 works at the beach of lido Monachelle. The beach experienced, in the past, a profound degradation. Subsequently it was occupied by artists working on its recovery and redevelopment . Beside from the exposition, “Artistic Contagion” phase 3 hosted examples of Slam poetries and a Jam Session.
The Madonna d’ ‘e Rrose is the protector and, at the same time, she is also the Muse of the artists. Thanks to them, she is slowly acquiring the place she deserves. However, there is no support for The Madonna d’ ‘e Rrose other than moral support from the institutions.
The artists followers of the Madonna d’ ‘e Rrose have asked for help to the Assessore alla Cultura e al Turismo Eleonora de Majo but unfortunatelly without significant results. There are Summer events in Napoli but there work always the same artists. It seems there is no place for the artisti of the ‘ A Madonna d’ ‘e Rrose. Despite the difficulties ‘ A Madonna d’ ‘e Rrose is becoming an integral part of the culture of Napoli. The restrictions resulting from the covid emergency have failed to stop the art. In fact, Napoli has already found a location in the historic center of the city and the artists, her followers, have managed to do all the events with success, following the rules and supported by city police and the police.
Marco Aspride, the man who invited me to the party three years ago, is the president of the newly formed Associazione of ‘A Madonna d’ e Rrose and, together with Francesco Federico who deals with tradition, tammorre and popular music, Marco is also artistic director. Their goal is to restore culture and traditions of Campania and entire Southern Italy.
Ancient traditions have always been passed down orally. The recovery of the artisanship of Southern Italy is important because when the veterans died many traditions fell into oblivion and, even worse, we are going through the process of globalization. As a result, young people today do not know their roots and there is a risk that they will seek their historical legitimacy in some … television serie. So it is necessary to dust the traditions to find one’s identity and also to find out how close we are one another.
The Associazione ‘A Madonna d’ and Rrose is working on recovering the sense of traditions to spread them, share them. The association is open to all those who make art and to all those who love it, without discrimination of any kind. Initiatives like this are among the few hopes that Napoli has to resist and to evolve.
Connect to Associazione ‘A Madonna d’ ‘e Rrose https://www.facebook.com/MadonnadeRoseNapoli