Thursday, October 21, 2010

Terra Madre opening

The first day of anything is chaotic, especially in Italy. The first day of a fair expecting 150,000 especially so. And the logistics of herding some 5000 very international delegates to the opening ceremonies for Terra Madre were handled with something less than military precision. But like all many-peopled events in this country, you can only stand back and admire the scope of the vision and the success of its achievements. That is, after you have tended your blisters, or picked yourself off the floor where hours ago you wept with fatigue and hunger, or exhausted your repertoire of bluster at the elegant shrugs and lengthy excuses of whatever group of officials you were dealing with. The queues are almost hilarious in their orderly beginnings and their scrum-like property when the gates open.

I especially enjoyed crossing three lines of traffic to get to the bus...

But then you taste the food, and see the pride in the faces of its makers, and you are suddenly enraptured; helpless in fact. Where else in the developed world can you still find so many labels that don't yet all say "Made in China"? Food, shoes, clothing. You sense it's a culture, like all of them, poised at the brink even so, but for now, we embrace it with gratitude.

Terra Madre opening ceremonies were all about indigenous. Spokespeople from many endangered cultures talked about the fight to preserve their traditions and languages.

The Sami reindeer herder pointed to the difficulties of maintaining a culture when your traditional territories have been appropriated by four different countries (Russia, Finland, Norway and Sweden), but invited the world to a conference on indigenous issues there next summer. Carlo Petrini was last up, of course, preaching fraternity and tolerance.

Lots of flags...

Generalised dancing and bopping about by the 161 flag-bearers at the end.


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