The ability to process wood has marked the history of Basilicata, a land rich in this vital raw material. Evidence to that is given by the archaeological repertoires kept in the regional museums, starting from the mythical Epeius, who constructed the Trojan Horse and founded cities in the land of the Oenotrians, whose work tools were kept by Metaponto citizens in the temple of Athena.
The work of Antonio Figliuolo (Picerno, 1930) and Luigi Volpe (Grassano, 1947), two mature and intense craftsmen, carvers, and musicians, is ideally linked to this artisans’ wisdom, which crosses time to give us works and artefacts of an extraordinary expressive force, as well as rare technical wisdom.
The following artworks by Antonio Figliuolo, creator of wood carvings, bas-reliefs, paintings, which represent the illustrated story of his people and the traditional culture of Picerno, are on display: “The emigrant”, and the decorated totems titled “The mother”, “Workers on the site”, “Group of friends”, “Apex (masters and labourers)”.
You’ll also find “living wood” (as the artist likes to say) tables and chairs by Luigi Volpe, who lives in harmony with nature and carves, using his hands and the right tools, the wood that he “finds around” (cherry, walnut, maple, olive trees), of which he preserves the shape, colour, and essence.

Among the places that, more than any other, embody the craft tradition of Basilicata, the town of Avigliano keeps many significant experiences of artisanal wisdom and know-how, which have been passed on from generation to generation. Among these, it’s worth mentioning Annangela Lovallo, refined embroideress and lover of Avigliano’s traditions, and Vito Aquila, knife maker and creator of the precious and sought-after crossbows of Avigliano.
The “panne r’attuorne” is a unique accessory of the local tradition. A rectangular strip of about 150 x 30 cm, which can be red or black (in the case of mourning), decorated with gold stripes or hand-painted and embroidered strips, according to the taste and social status of the women who wrap themselves in it to protect their lap. The example on display dates back to the mid-19th century and has a hand embroidered seal on a taffeta ribbon. It belonged to the embroideress’ great grandmother.
In the Avigliano’s tradition, embroidery follows the carving technique, which in the past was used to make brides’ refined clothes and linen, especially the so-called “MUTA”, the bedsheets that were placed on the bed for the first night. For women who owned real estate, it was usually made of white linen, although, during the war, it could also be obtained from the fabric of parachutes left on the fields by soldiers.
The crossbows of Avigliano are made of precious materials: the horn of buffaloes or local male Podolica bulls are used for the grip; the blade is made of Damascus or 440C steel; spring steel is used in the manufacture of the spring, whereas the “varole” (the springs used to open and close the dagger) are made in silver. Finally, for the inlay work, silver or, on some occasions, gold are preferred. A refined production made with dedication by Vito Aquila thanks to the experience gained in his father’s workshop and with the help of master Donato Galasso, son of Giuseppe, the last of a glorious family of cutlers from Avigliano.

The ancient goldsmiths’ tradition of Basilicata represents one of the most important archaeological findings in the world, with very rich deposits coming mainly from the necropolises of Lavello, Chiaromonte, Alianello, Braida di Vaglio and Santa Maria d’Anglona. This huge precious production, which evokes the many ethnic groups that have marked the history of this land located at the heart of the Mediterranean basin – rich in water and therefore always so populated and desirable – has been echoed by skilled local artists, who can wisely use poor materials to represent higher quality products. Such a fruitful “dualism” is told by the works of Manuela Telesca, a young and successful jewellery designer from Potenza, and Raffaele Pentasuglia, a papier-mâché artist and ceramist of Matera, who followed in the family tradition.
The choker and bracelet of the Trame collection, made in bronze, silver and natural white topazes, are linked to that part of Manuela Telesca’s artistic research, which draws inspiration from the regional archaeological collections. In particular, these jewels are inspired by the bronze chain mail belts found in many sites across the region and dating back to the 8th-5th century B.C.
The angel of the Float, a representation of the famous and majestic “Float” built several times by the papier-mâché artists of the Pentasuglia’s family for the Festival of the Madonna della Bruna, which is celebrated on 2nd July each year, in Matera, is flanked by a bust of Don Quixote of La Mancha, using the Papier Mâché technique in the contemporary interpretation of Raffaele, characterised by idiomatic purity.

Stonecutters, ceramists and terracotta artisans have always created their works throughout the Basilicata region, very rich in raw materials, such as the Gorgoglione and Latronico stone and the clay coming from inland areas, especially the Calanchi, the clay gullies located between the towns of Aliano and Tursi. This is the context that has given rise to the production of the Grieco brothers, stone artisans active in the towns of Gorgoglione and Guardia Perticara, and Rocco Gallicchio, who followed in the tradition of the faenzari, ceramists from Calvello, who learned their skill from the Benedictine monks coming from Faenza and settled here.
The mortar and sink created by the Grieco’s – Giovanni, Giuseppe, Michele, stonecutters from three generations – are made of Gorgoglione stone, bearing witness to the beauty of this native sandstone, which can resist both heat and frost and embodies in full the character and spirit of this mountain people. Such toughness can be shaped elegantly and transformed into everyday essential objects by wise hands.
The ceramic dishes made by Rocco Gallicchio fully express an ancient art learned from his father Francesco, who combines traditional shapes – such as the bird with a sparrow body and a peacock tail – with new, but just as much refined and unique creations, the result of a careful search for shapes, glazes, and colours. Once baked, the terracotta objects are dipped in a glaze and painted with goat hair brushes made by Rocco.

Music is a significant element of the traditional culture of Basilicata, a region rich in instruments and songs that have been the focus of important survey campaigns since the 1950s, with Diego Carpitella, Roberto Leydi, Pietro Sassu and, more recently, Nicola Scaldaferri. Among the most typical instruments there are the zampogna, the Surdulina (a small-sized single reed version of the zampogna, which can be found throughout the Pollino area, where the Arbëreshe culture has a strong influence), the shawm, the friction drum known as cupa-cupa, the tambourine and some models of Zuffolo, a fipple flute. These instruments are linked to the rural culture and the seasonal migration of cattle, which has permeated the history of this land, rich in pastures and water sources, for thousands of years. This production is accompanied by the Harp of Viggiano. Its unique story is evidenced by the development of workshops of artisans who worked with ebony, as well as luthiers in the 19th century. All these artisans had to meet the need for instruments of the street musicians who left the village of the Alta Val d’Agri to perform throughout Italy and the world.
The shawms displayed are made by Quirino Valvano, famous musician-builder from San Costantino Albanese, who is able to use wisely the local woods, including olive, maple, and cherry.
The harp, instead, is the result of the activities carried out by an Association that, for several years, has been working to enhance the local musical tradition, transcribe and relaunch popular pieces that have been handed down orally, as well as teach at the Scuola dell’Arpa Viggianese (Harp school of Viggiano). The essences used to build the harmonic box, column and neck are beech and maple.

The rural and peasant tradition has inspired the objects of daily use, made in wood or wood fibres (cane, reeds, branches of Mediterranean vegetation, olive tree, elm, willow) by two extraordinary representatives of this thousand-year-old art, Antonio Caldone and Giuseppe Stefanachi. Their works come from the search and processing of raw materials, which are then shaped in finished objects. Baskets and trays, where the colours of nature are wisely intertwined, revealing an innate ability to create shapes/containers starting from the Mediterranean vegetation. Antonio learned this art from his father on the pastures between the towns of Bernalda and Pomarico. Interested in this tradition and eager to become a representative of this art, in his workshop found at the heart of the Sassi of Matera, Giuseppe Stefanachi presents the stamps made in carved wood, with varied shapes and symbolic meanings, which were once used by families to mark their own loaves baked in the city’s shared ovens; the cavarole, wooden boards used to prepare home-made pasta, and the typical wooden carved spoons, made with native essences, such as olive, cherry and mulberry.

The manufacture of wrought iron and leather have played an important role in the history of handicraft in Basilicata. The archaeological collections show an extraordinary wealth of elements in iron and wrought bronze, related on the one hand to warriors’ armours, elms, greaves, and cuirasses, and on the other to refined objects of daily use, such as vases, lamps, oven rakes and skewers.
A keen interpreter of this tradition is Rocco Taurisano, who works iron and bronze in Tito, a town of Gallo-Italian language, giving to them a rare lightness, defined by director Lorenzo Ostuni as “a cast-iron journey towards lightness”. His interpretation of the olive tree and the rooster, the essential symbolic elements of his distinctive style, is displayed in the exhibition.
The creative universe of everyday life has inspired the traditional saddlebag of Tursi made by Salvatore di Gregorio, who brings back up the soft bag used by shepherds and farmers – on foot, donkeys or on horseback – to carry their breakfast…cheese, bread, a slice of lard and the never-failing red wine. The practice of working local leather with the hands characterises Salvatore’s varied production, in his workshop located in Tursi, a town famous for the charming Rabatana, the ancient Saracen district that is wonderfully described by local poet Albino Pierro.

Palmarosa Fuccella

In mostra

  • Antonio Figliuolo, totem narranti
  • Luigi Volpe, arredi d’ulivo
  • Giuseppe Stefanachi, oggetti della tradizione pastorale
  • Quirino Valvano, ciaramelle arbëreshe
  • Associazione arpa viggianese, arpe
  • Antonio Caldone, giunchi intrecciati
  • Rocco Taurisano, ferro battuto
  • Salvatore Di Gregorio, cuoio
  • Vito Aquila, balestre di Avigliano
  • Annangela Lovallo, ricami e costumi tradizionali
  • Manuela Telesca, gioielli
  • Raffaele Pentasuglia, cartapesta
  • Rocco Gallicchio, ceramica di Calvello
  • Fratelli Grieco, pietra lavorata di Gorgoglione

INFO

Mostra a cura di Palmarosa Fuccella

Organizzazione APT Basilicata

29 giugno11 luglio 2021

Santa Maria de Armenis
Matera

Orari apertura: 9:00/13:0016:30/21:30